The Dangerous Dr. Chavers: A Rebuttal to "Here's my Problem with #BlackGirlMagic"

January 13, 2016


The difference between #BlackGirlMagic and the “strong, black woman” archetype is that the first is self-empowering and the latter a social construct that both acknowledges and diminishes the additional barriers that must be surmounted when a human being is born both black and female. I didn’t go to Harvard. I didn’t major in African American History nor did I get my degree in English. I haven’t quite lived a quarter of a century or filed my own taxes or been married or divorced or any of those other things that qualify as #adulting. No, there are fewer things on my #Adulting scorecard than Dr. Chavers, and I will yield in deference as if she was Big Sister Nuance in the International Sorority of Mu Beta Gamma, the Magical Black Girl sorority that all, not some black girls are initiated into, from birth. This initiation requires no great feat, actually. The pledge process occurs all throughout life. “Black girl magic” is the name we call ourselves, the one we answer to. “Strong, black woman” is the one we were given. I’ll explain.

Dr. Chavers fails to recognize this difference, in her Elle “article” Here’s My Problem with #BlackGirlMagic, choosing instead to argue on the erroneous premise that the hashtag is more often used by others to describe black girls as mythical, as objects. In my personal experience, I have not seen this to be the case. Contrast this, to the overuse of the “strong, black woman” archetype that indeed has been initiated by people who are neither black, nor female, and in some instances not strong. This archetype has a curious dual edge in that it both acknowledges that the black woman has had to evolve, for lack of a better word, a thick skin, or an intrinsic motivation that is paramount to her success in the face of situations that were not designed to include her. However, in this discovery, is no responsible, nor reflective acknowledgement of the inherent ridiculousness that a human being would have to be extraordinary to evade the life-mines placed in her path, and certainly no salient dedication to see those barriers removed.

The “strong, black woman” archetype is vintage. It is outdated. It is weak and feeble because in calling someone a strong, black woman, one is merely pointing out that it is obvious that this individual was born into disadvantage, but not critical of the institutionalized racism and sexism that placed such a magical creature into this framework.

Yes, black women’s bodies have scripts written all over them. As black people and female people, we are doubly constricted in expectation, that of others, more often and that of ourselves, in many circumstances. While we have been otherized in several ways that have objectified our bodies, minds, achievements, etc, the #BlackGirlMagic hashtag picks up the slack from the lazy “strong, black woman” archetype. Black girl magic, as I perceive it, is a declaration that in spite of the life-mines of hurdles that other non-black, non-female humans do not need to concern themselves with, black girls all over the world dare to achieve and overachieve. The statistics, (the real ones, not the ones you find in IG memes and twitter news) have revealed that black girls are the most educated demographic in the United States. Our First lady is a magical black girl!

Magic is not a term that is mythical, in my opinion. Magic is not a term that objectifies, at least not me, personally. I believe that magic is a term more akin to audacity. That a human being born with double shackles of racial stigma and gender stigma should be so wonderfully fearless and audacious as to aspire to things that society may have believed to be reserved for our blonde and blue-eyed brethren. The nerve! That a black girl would aim to receive the highest education and be nurturing as a mother or a leader in her career. It’s absolutely ridiculous! But it is our reality, our truth and to liken it to the objectification that others have inflicted on us, is cruel, unusual, and lazy. But more so, it is dangerous. I pray you find your magic again, Dr. Chavers.