Yesha Callahan

Elle Writer Has a Problem With #BlackGirlMagic & Black Women on Twitter Were NOT Pleased


Just when the phrase #BlackGirlMagic seems to have made it to the mainstream, with both Black and white publications recognizing the brilliance and awesomeness of Black women and girls, Elle magazine decided to publish an article taking the opposite stance.

In her article, “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic,” Linda Chavers argues there’s nothing empowering about the catchy phrase. In her opinion, #BlackGirlMagic dehumanizes Black women and girls.

Chavers writes:

Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human. That might sound nitpicky, but it’s not nitpicky when we are still being treated as subhuman. And there’s a very long history of black women being treated as subhuman by the medical establishment, in spite of the debt Western medicine owes to them.  It doesn’t begin or end with Henrietta Lacks and the cancer cells taken from her cervix without her or her family’s knowledge or permission. It doesn’t begin or end with black women receiving less anesthesia, if at all, in surgeries because of the widely held belief that black women felt no pain. It doesn’t begin or end with black women receiving improper and dangerous prenatal care or compulsory sterilizations.

One of our most collectively celebrated images of a black woman is the black woman who perseveres, who survives, who continues on. In pain. Suffering. It is the beautiful tragic epitome of that strong black woman type we also collectively celebrate and simultaneously criticize.

Chavers, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, points to discrimination in the medical community, by authority figures, and systematic racism to prove Black women are not magical, but rather continuously victimized by the system.

Is it because we’re magical that Daniel Holtzclaw thought he could stalk, rape, threaten us, and get away with it? Maybe the Texas policeman who threw a bikini-clad black girl to the ground at a pool partythought she was magical and wouldn’t feel anything. Maybe the school security guardwho grabbed a 14-year-old black girl, body slammed her and threw her across the room, thought she was magical and would bounce off the floor.

Chavers concludes, “Saying we’re superhuman is just as bad as saying we’re animals, because it implies that we are organically different, that we don’t feel just as much as any other human being. Black girls and women are humans. That’s all we are.”

As you can imagine, Chavers’ words did not sit well with a large portion of Black women on social media.

While it’s true, Black women are indeed human, Chavers’ ultra literal interpretation of the phrase #BlackGirlMagic is not only odd, but it also ignores how the manta is used.

Black women and girls talk about our magic, not because we believe we are superhuman beings, but instead as a celebration of our humanity and survival, no matter what we’re up against.

Yes, racism and sexism and violence and discrimination are very real challenges Black women and girls face, and yet we’re still here. Simply breathing, putting one foot in front of the other, and choosing to LIVE is our magic.

Too bad Chavers doesn’t recognize her own.

  1. January 13, 2016 - Reply

    I can see where she’s coming from. I’m sorry she’s dealing with MS, but I think she’s projecting way too much of her issues into the hashtag. I take the term #blackgirlmagic as women who are independent thinkers who are doing their own thing and excellence is the result of stepping out on faith. She could have just written about the horrors of racism in the medical industry and leave it at that.

    • January 14, 2016 - Reply


      ‘I take the term #blackgirlmagic as women who are independent thinkers who are doing their own thing and excellence is the result of stepping out on faith’

      I will save this quote and it will be my motto for this year. Thank you.

  2. January 13, 2016 - Reply

    She gave all black women a back hand smack.

  3. January 13, 2016 - Reply

    Her article was just downright bazaar. She needs a psychologist to help her work through her issues with MS and with her racial identity.

    Someone commented on Facebook that if it had been just “#girlmagic” would Elle have posted the same kind trolling article?

  4. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    Im sick of this CRAP…YES: I AM A STRONG, SMART, MAGICAL, PHENOMENAL QUEEN!!! Deal W/ It!!!! My daughter will be raised like one and so will her daughter. Black Women NEED to LOVE themselves MORE! And have MORE RESPECT for ourselves. Nobody will believe it if we don’t FIRST!!!!

  5. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    I understand her point. Black folks face a real tangible problem in the sense that white supremacy is still affecting our lives on a daily basis. The answer is not to be magical as opposed to practical real world tangible solutions to the problem. She is saying that “magical” implies some “special power” that black folks really don’t have. It doesn’t solve the real physical issues of racism and white supremacy and only makes black women into fairy tale unicorns who don’t deserve any sympathy because they are ‘magical’ and simply take whatever abuse and punishment put on them and not suffer. White folks have wealth and power. They don’t have “magic”. Black folks have no wealth and power but want to be “magical”. I would rather have the wealth, power and control over my own space which is not going to happen by ‘magic’.

    The world today operates on the basis of wealth, power, ownership and control. That is the name of the game. “Magic” is for fairy tales and fantasies in books and movies. If “magic” produced wealth and power they would have figured out how to steal that from us a long time ago. But it doesn’t so nobody really cares about “magical”.

    This is just another one of those tropes that some of us latch on to that can’t be measured because it is an intangible entity subject to ones own imagination and feelings. Wealth and power are tangible things that can be measured and quantified. Either you have it or you don’t. And black folks overall don’t have it.

    • January 14, 2016 - Reply


      This is the harsh truth.

    • January 15, 2016 - Reply


      I agree, and find the whole meme really childish. And to be petty, what is ‘Ms. Jackson’ attempting to say?

    • January 17, 2016 - Reply


      I don’t think that is what black girl magic means.

  6. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    I think that Chavers misinterpreted what the Black Girl magic movement is (Although, I know where she is coming from). The Black Girl Magic movement is about not classifying black women as superhuman, not feeling pain, etc. It is not about ignoring sexism, racism, discrimination, and other evils that black girls and black women suffer. It is not about using magic to solve every problem. Black Girl Magic means that black women themselves have great human value and are dynamic. Black Girl Magic means that black women have made great accomplishments throughout human history. It means that black women survive and continue to make great contributions, and fight injustices despite obstacles is magical in it of itself. Black Girl Magic (which is in opposition to the permanent pessimism embraced by some people) is about promoting the truth that black women are the epitome of beauty, strength, consciousness, and the origin of the human race in general. Black Girl Magic is hopeful for the future. So, I believe that she made a mistake in her characterization of what BlackGirlMagic means. We all express empathy for her suffering (in dealing with MS).

    On other issues, she is right to expose the nefarious system of racism/white supremacy. She is right to expose the misogynoir epidemic in our society. Therefore, we need to advance not only self-determination, but an overall end to the evil system of oppression worldwide. We want people to be liberated and that means that we will continue to fight the structures of oppression. Power is not about tyranny either. Some people view power as the only reason to live, but life is more than about power. Life is about helping your neighbor, growing love, and standing up for justice. Life encompasses the need of power, wisdom, justice, and a revolutionary change in society too.

    There is nothing wrong with power if it is used correctly.

    Power is not just about us owning something. Power is about us helping black people and building up institutions that can develop our black communities. The progressive principles of economic and social justice are concepts that I will fight for forever. Power and liberation deal with respecting the black poor (in opposition to capitalistic exploitation. A real revolutionary abhors capitalistic exploitation) and making sure that gender equality is made real in the Universe. NOW, THAT’S POWER.

    #Black Girls Rock

    • January 17, 2016 - Reply


  7. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    *hits his reading comprehension GPS system* Hey, how did we start at a conversation about Black Girl Magic and get to Henrietta Lacks? This can’t be right…

  8. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    I haven’t read the whole article, but I think I get where she comes from. Black Girl Magic has basically replaced Strong Black Woman, Independent Woman, etc. and all those other monikers that get used to simultaneously tout and punish black women for their existence. If people expect you to be something more than human, they get comfortable w/treating you like you don’t feel human emotions and pain or need human help and sympathy. It’s a slippery slope, and I get it. I think she’s saying let’s first acknowledge Black Girl Humanity b/c that’s still being overlooked despite how strong and resilient we are.

  9. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    In 2016 they want to continue to perpetuate the hate on black women, but why? What did black women do to America that we are always the topic of conversation. We are magical, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. ✨??

    • January 14, 2016 - Reply



  10. January 14, 2016 - Reply

    She just applied her own context to a movement and decided to disagree with it. #BlackGirlMagic is for those who are vulnerable, those who are strong, and those who are just “meh” on a Thursday afternoon.

  11. January 16, 2016 - Reply

    I guess the meme is to counter all the negative slogans you hear about us. But still I’m tired of the stereotypes and this is just another one of them

  12. January 16, 2016 - Reply

    She’s reached across the seven seas with this one….

  13. January 20, 2016 - Reply

    lol…magic…black females have to be “magic” as they are held responsible for shouldering the burdens of an entire community. Thus in this case, I am taking “magic” to be synonymous with “mule”.

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