The harm of Black Girl Magic
A few years ago when the term “Black Girl Magic” became popularized by social media, as a way to celebrate the successes of black women, I immediately caught on and started referring to myself as having “Black Girl Magic.” I finally felt appreciated by the society that had rejected me for so long. In a world where Black women are stereotyped as unprofessional, unattractive, loud and angry, why shouldn’t we want to be considered magical? Growing up, I scarcely found people who looked like me casted in movies as a princess, or even a fairy alongside Tinkerbell. The idea of me being perceived as magical felt out of reach, but I wanted to embrace the title so badly. When I heard actress Taraji P. Henson denounce the saying, I got defensive and felt a little discouraged. Taraji P. Henson, a phenomenal Black actress that I look up to and consider to be magical, said the term is “dehumanizing” to Black women? There is no way! How can something that gives me so much hope cause so much harm?
The more I started to investigate, the more I started to agree with her. In a world where Black women are disproportionately neglected in doctor’s offices, coined as angry when expressing the tiniest bit of passion, and deemed “ratchet” and “ugly,” the phrase “Black Girl Magic” only hurts us by saying we are able to undertake unnecessary amounts of pain and rejection, because we are built to withstand the toughest of challenges. But in reality, that is not just.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, Black women are three times more likely to die and suffer from life-threatening disabilities due to pregnancy complications and childbirth than white women. A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found that 40 percent of medical students believe that Black people have “thicker skin,” and are less susceptible to pain than white people. In an interview with Vogue Magazine, Serena Williams described her near-death experience after the birth of her first daughter. Williams felt a shortness of breath that she was afraid was linked to past medical issues. When she tried to communicate the problem to her doctors, they dismissed her pleas for help. The problem ended up being serious, and she had to have emergency surgery in order to save her life. Her doctor’s negligence almost resulted in her death. If a woman of her status and power is being overlooked in this type of situation, just imagine what is happening to the Black women all around you.
Black women feel pain. A brave face is worn as a disguise to mask fragile vulnerability. Our feelings get hurt, we get sick, heartbroken — we are not inhuman. In a society that tries so hard to dismiss every human thing about us, the term “Black Girl Magic” is dehumanizing, and it serves as a rejection of all the suffering that others have implemented in our lives. We must stop referring to ourselves as having Black girl magic so when we get in those hospital rooms and say we are in pain, they believe us and feel a responsibility to keep us Black women alive. We must become vulnerable so that our feelings will stop being dismissed, and we are given the respect we deserve as human beings.
While Black women have survived a lot, we are not above the pain everyone else feels. Our hearts are fragile and must be handled with care. Black women deserve a life where we are not expected to take our own punches as well as everyone else’s — we deserve to be loved and nurtured as we love and nurture. We are capable of so much more than what society tries to say we are. Black women are remarkable. Black women are emotional. Black women are breathtaking. Black women are vulnerable. Black women are human.