The Black Girl Magic Myth — Addressing the Danger In Using “Magic” to Describe the Unique Resilience of Black Women
The Black Girl Magic Myth
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Examining the Black Girl Magic myth. I have never been a fan of the term “Black Girl Magic.” Maybe because I am intimately familiar with how the human psyche operates, there are definitely times when my knowledge of human behavior takes all of the fun out of an idea as it does with Black Girl Magic. You see, my issue with the term “Black Girl Magic” is not that Black women are not extraordinary — they are phenomenal. However, when you use the term “magic” to define Black women, it becomes easier to discount what the Black woman has done and must do each day. There is nothing magical about beating the odds to start your own business — that is the result of hard work and resilience.
Magic does not play a role in finding ways to stretch the budget to feed and house a family as a single mother — that is the result of creativity and faith. Don’t confuse the remarkable intellectual flexibility and intestinal fortitude of Black women with anything magical. Often, the phenomenal accomplishments of Black women come at great costs that get pushed aside by the assumption that magic of some kind is responsible.
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When you attribute the extraordinary accomplishments of Black women to magic, you discount their fortitude and commitment. When you reduce childbirth, as a Black experience, to a magical moment, you marginalize the dangers and risks of childbirth for Black women, putting them at risk with healthcare professionals who do not take their complaints and concerns seriously. In the United States, Black women are two to six times more likely to die during childbirth. One of the common contributors is the standing belief that Black women don’t feel pain, leading professionals to dismiss the complaints and concerns of Black female patients.
The conundrum of Black suffering appurtenant to Black women should not be restricted to what takes place in the labor rooms of hospitals. It is often more difficult for Black women to receive assistance when it is needed. Black women struggle to get financial support from within our community and from others outside of government assistance. Why should those who can provide them with assistance help when the Black woman can perform magic? She can figure it out, she always does.
It is not magic that directs the movement of Black women as they attempt to navigate the labyrinthine corridors of racism and genderism in the workplace, but an irrepressible persistence that refuses to adhere to the restraints of an oppressive system. The idea that what Black women do is magic reduces the complexity and force of their true capacity to rise to meet challenges through their genius and creativity. This form of marginalization serves to diminish or detract from her greatness and impact — leading to lower pay and reward for services rendered.
I don’t want to rob the Black woman of her shine. On the contrary, I want the Black Woman’s sun to shine at its brightest, but not at the cost of ignoring her sacrifice and determination. Saying that Black Girl Magic is a myth is not an attack on the Black woman, it is a refusal to ignore her plight in a country that has maligned, misused, misunderstood, and mishandled her for more than 400 years.
Furthermore, I don’t want the young men I mentor and work with to espouse a flawed perception of our women that serves to devalue their existence and their necessity.
When everyone is singing the “Black Girl Magic” celebration song, how does the Black woman suffering from MS feel when she can’t make her disease magically disappear? When the single mother of three can’t magically pay the light bill or the rent, what does it say about her? What about the Black mother who is struggling to deliver her baby naturally, and she must deliver through c-section — where is the magic? It is easy for Black women who have yet to find their place in this world to postulate that they don’t have the magic that other Black females possess. There is nothing magical about what Black women do; it is all the result of hard work and an unrelenting will to win. While the Black woman is supernatural, she is not magical. She has to put forth work to produce what she creates; it does not simply appear.
Finally, the idea of the magical presence of a Black woman tends to dismiss the spiritual nature of Black women, and that may be the most dangerous risk of all. The greatest power of the Black woman is her spiritual essence. I often say that we will only get as high as our women can spiritually lift us, and as far as our men can physically lead us. The spiritual nature of a Black woman is phenomenal and unparalleled, and it transcends the influence of magic in every imaginable way.
Yes, the Black woman is exceptional, extraordinary, and phenomenal, but none of her great accomplishments can be attributed to magic. She is remarkable because of her fortitude to stand in there when most others throw in the towel.
To all of my beautiful Black Sisters out there working miracles and doing the extraordinary, I celebrate you. I did not pen this short treatise to darken your shine but to ensure that you get full credit for your uncanny ability to doing what most others cannot. To attribute what you do to magic shortchanges you and robs you of so much of your inherent glory. Magic cannot come close to explaining your phenomenal nature. Black Girl Magic definitely has a ring to it, but it is cheap when placed in juxtaposition to who you really are. Black woman, you are not magical, you are divine. There is a difference! ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.
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Chavers, L. (2016, January 13). Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic. Elle.
Flanders-Stephens, M. B. (2000). Alarming Racial Differences in Maternal Mortality. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 2000 Spring; 9(2): 50–51.
Frye, J. (2019). Racism and Sexism Combine to Shortchange Working Black Women. Center for American Progress.
 (Flanders-Stephens, 2000)
 (Chavers, 2016)