Monday, July 31, 2017

Black Girl Unmagical

I am not magical. I may be smart; fairly well-educated; exposed to art, literature, and music; gifted in various ways; hardworking and capable but what I am not, is magical. I don't think I need to be. Given the list of things I know I can do, what need have I of magic? I'm perfectly comfortable saying that there is no Black girl magic in me. There is hard work, blessings and more hard work. Magic is entirely superfluous. Would that I lived in a world that could accept me as I am: entirely unmagical but no less brilliant and capable. Yeah, I said it.

The BGM terminology is something POC have created to communicate that we too are human; that we too are valuable; that we too have much to offer. I understand it, but honestly, I want no part of it. 

Some in the majority find it difficult to comprehend that Black folk are more than conquerors, more than capable and *whispers* from time to time, more powerful, more brilliant, more gifted than they. And so, we birthed a label to aid comprehension but does it really help?

For me, the major problem with the language of "Black girl/boy magic" is that it gives an oppressive system one more way to divide and conquer those whom it oppresses; one more way to consider some marginalized people worthy of consideration and others if it needed one more way. It's one more tool to separate human wheat from chaff.

Personally, I want no part of it but then I'm grown and I grew up in a place where anything was possible from someone who looked like me. African-American youngsters need this phrase because they're growing up in a place where so much is damn near impossible for many of them. They need to be told that they can be magic, and do wondrous things, because the system works overtime to grind them into the dust. And yet, even with our hashtags and attempts at affirming them, the system routinely brutalizes them for having the temerity to hold a positive view of themselves as young people, and as adults, it will likely brutalize them for arrogance when they present themselves in the world believing in their effort and achievements. Seems like we can't win for losing.

My take is that the idea of #BlackGirlMagic is only partially for us and our children. Mostly, it's a push back and a push in to the systems in which we live. It's our attempt at inoculation against the ugliness and an attempt to change the prevailing stories about us.

But I say again: we are not magic. Some of us may be better than a good number of folk at a few things or even many things, but that is not magic, that's the bell curve. Magic is not required because nature is quite sufficient.

The problem is that labels are rarely for the labeled. Whether good or bad, labels are an attempt to communicate. Affirming labels tell the world what you believe or know about yourself. Negative labels tell the labeled what the world thinks it knows about you.

Take for example, James Baldwin's words about The En Word (about which word I've written a few thoughts). He pointed out in the clip below, that the language used to describe Blackness tells us more about those doing the describing than it does about those so described. Fast forward 50 or so years, and, we have got in on the labeling game, in another effort to aid the process of the humanization of the negro. Remember the Black is Beautiful movement of the sixties and seventies? BGM is more of that. Probably likely to be just as successful.

It's 2017. Tell me again why we're still doing this? 

In spite of the fact that:
Maya Angelou & James Baldwin have written great words; 
Marian Anderson & Paul Robeson have sung great songs;
James Earl Jones & Cicely Tyson have masterfully trod the boards;
John Coltrane & Miles Davis have played and created wondrous music;
Jacob Lawrence done painted and Edmonia Lewis have sculpted gloriously;
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson & Mary Jackson has calculated and star-gazed their way into history; 
John Urschel has worked his sums and written his peer-reviewed papers.

And yet, with all that achievement (and those are just from the twentieth century), despite hurdles erected by the system and moving goal posts, and we need to be magic too?

Clearly, there is little appetite to see Blackness as real. Our offering up this language won't help. It is willful blindness that prevents true acknowledgement of us. That blindness has been necessary to survive the brutality of the plantation and everything that has occurred here before and since. And given the obvious continuing unwillingness to own up to the nation's brutalities, there will be no return of sight in the foreseeable (smirk) future.

I don't think African-Americans do themselves any favors by adding to the fantastical narratives around Blackness. Already, we're stuck with the myth that Blackness that feels less pain; myths about Black strength; myths about Black sexuality (which frequently led - and still do - to dangerous rape accusations); myths about Black intelligence and general myths about Black inferiority. And to all this we add magicality? As if one more myth were needed.

America is a land of fairy tales. We've believed in noble savages; simultaneously lazy and job stealing immigrants (Schrodinger's immigrants); bullet-dodging young Black men; the threat of looming Sharia law; the gay agenda; the trans agenda and pizzagate. Clearly, there is a deep unwillingness to deal exclusively in the land of truth and each fantasy believed makes the next one even easier to believe. 

In the midst of all of America's fairytaling, is it possible to see someone else's truth and reality? I don't think so. As long as America clings to the blinding fantasies of who and what America is and has been, it will be impossible to make reality (including the real humanness of POC) visible. We cannot live in reality and in fantasy simultaneously. By refusing to see its own truth, America ensures that the lies it has long told about the marginalized continue.

So here I am, telling you the truth. Here it is, straight, no chaser: there is no magic. There are natural gifts + hard work and lucky breaks and more hard work. There are gifts, hard work, no breaks, years of sweat and toil, and sometimes a moment of recognition. Or not. There is success, there is failure, there is blood, sweat, and tears, but there is no damn magic.

Blackness is not magical. If it were, wouldn't we all be sitting on top of the world? 

We are not magical, We work, we study, we practice our crafts, and if we are a success, you best believe we worked very, very hard for it. There's no "Abracadabra!" in any of that.

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