BlackGirlMagic, A debate?

It’s common knowledge that whenever a black woman does anything she, and her actions, are subject to heavy debate. Be it dancing, hairstyle choices, or expressing self-love, she does not exist without scrutiny. So, of course when the #BlackGirlMagic movement made it’s arrival onto the pages of TeenVogue and Essence, someone was going to have something to say about it, what I didn’t expect to see was the latest article by Dr. Lina Chavers published on Elle.com:

“Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human.” – Dr. Linda Chavers

Huh? That’s the exact question I asked myself after reading that article because nowhere did I see the connection between Dr. Chaver’s argument that BlackGirlMagic denies black women of their humanity, and the reality of what BlackGirlMagic means to all of the black women supporting the hashtag/movement. She even goes on to suggest that BlackGirlMagic is responsible for the egregious sexual and violent crimes committed against black women:

“When I see “black girl magic,” I think, was Sandra Bland not magical enough? Renisha McBride? Miriam Carey? Perhaps she’d been trying to be magical and, failing, started to blame herself instead.”- Dr. Linda Chavers

What? I expected these questions, I expected these implications, but I didn’t expect them from a black woman, let alone a black woman scholar. Perhaps I was naive in my own thinking that we understood BlackGirlMagic existed as a place for us not to be superwoman, but to be human, to recognize the humanity of our fallen sisters, and to raise awareness of those whose inhumane treatments outrage no one except us.

Luckily, rebuttals to Dr. Chavers stretch of an argument rose up expertly defending, and reminding, naysayers what BlackGirlMagic is.

One is from @amyjuicebox who wrote in her article for Blavity:

“#BlackGirlMagic isn’t about dehumanizing black women, who are called upon time and time again to exercise super-human strength and ridiculous levels of forgiveness in the face of every “-ism” in the book. It’s for every girl who needs #YouOkSis when she’s harassed on the street. It’s for the young women who are accused of being ##FastTailedGirls. #BlackGirlMagic wasn’t what killed Sandra Bland, it’s what got her name out there in the first place. #BlackGirlMagic wasn’t what put Marissa Alexander in prison, it’s what eventually got her out.” – Amy Juicebox 

And another rebuttal arrived from Ashley Ford (@iSmashFizzle), whose piece was published on Elle.com:

“Black Girl Magic moves way beyond the trope of impenetrable strength, and because it was created by a black woman, includes the inside joke of calling what we’ve always known to be real about our capabilities “magic.” [CaShawn] Thompson knew what she was doing, and she did it well. She helped us name the unique experience of living in this world as black women and finding a way to cross that line. She helped me name exactly what made me feel so close to Grace. She gave Harriet’s dream a name. There’s no limiting of humanity in the rhetoric here. In fact, she gave us just the opposite.” – Ashley Ford

What I appreciate about these rebuttals is the fact that they are not centered on attacking on Dr. Chavers. But perhaps the reason Dr. Chavers’ escaped such personal criticism is because her argument is not hers alone. Its echoes the sentiment of those who have an incessant need to check Beyonce’s feminist card while ignoring the transgressions of those whom they hail as queens of that movement, those who found no qualms with the all-white cast of Suffrage donning a “feminist” t-shirt, those who cry out that a show called Black Girl’s Rock is somehow exclusionary despite the fact that the Academy Awards has, once again, failed to recognize the achievements of creators of color.

These criticisms don’t usually come from those who look like us, so when Ashley and Amy offered such eloquent rebuttals, I believed their words existed to extend beyond Dr. Chavers and sit in front of those who will try to use her article as a means to denounce the BlackGirlMagic movement. Or I could be a conspiracy theorist, however, I found it quite peculiar that an article questioning a black woman’s empowerment movement would surface on a magazine site conspicuously targeted to white women–(TeenVogue republished the Blavity rebuttal on their site).  If this debate, or question, is being raised about a black women’s movement, why is it existing on a white women’s platform?

One only needs to look to twitter for some answers:

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@ztsamudzi‘s commentary is my particular favorite

Zoestimeline1

Zoe S timeline1

Thoughts?

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9 thoughts on “BlackGirlMagic, A debate?

  1. I’m proud of the Ashley Ford and @AmyJuiceBox for eloquently combating ignorance. Ignorance is what makes a person turn self-love and admiration into something derogative.

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  2. Thank you so much!

    I actually started writing the post just after Christmas. It was 85%done. And then ELLE happened. I needed to make sure that we broke down BGM to those who may or may not understand.

    The fact it ended up in Teen Vogue, means that much more. Because a young black girl who doesn’t feel like she’s enough may read it and share it.

    That alone makes it worth the write.

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    1. It was actually through the TeenVogue link that I found your article. Thank you so much for writing it! I kept looking for a way to express my defense of BGM after I read Dr. Chavers’ article and your piece summed it up perfectly.

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      1. And that’s what I feared was Elle’s purpose of running her article, to somehow cause an unnecessary commotion that deflected from the actual point of BGM. Your, and Ashley’s, responses made me feel like it was safe again to share opposing opinions and even have a debate. The fact that the debate began on a platform that doesn’t normally open the floor for black women voices is what had me cautious about ulterior motives for publishing Dr. Chavers’ piece in the first place.

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      2. Exactly! While I am sooo proud & happy for Amandla’s TeenVogue cover, I instantly thought “BlackGirlMagic” is going to become the new click bate phrase for mainstream media outlets

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