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#BlackGirlsAreMagic In Canada, too

February 2nd, 2016     by Fiona Clarke     Comments

Illustration by Erin McPhee

If you were to take a look at Black Twitter these days you would notice that there is a lot of debate about the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic.

The hashtag #BlackGirlsAreMagic was created by a Black woman, CaShawn Thompson, in 2013, and has since gained significant momentum, what Thompson, in an interview with the L.A. Times, has called a “movement.” Thompson and her circle of friends first started to use the hashtag to highlight instances on social media when a Black girl or Black woman exudes excellence: from the beauty of her hair to an astounding achievement in her career. Such showcasing is necessary in a world in which Black girls and women receive little recognition for their gifts and face so many obstacles to their physical survival.

The hashtag became a topic of haughty debate after Elle.com published an op-ed piece by Dr. Linda Chavers, a Black woman, entitled “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic.” In the article, Chavers argues that the hashtag perpetuates the “strong black woman” trope, which dehumanizes the Black woman by endowing us with superhuman powers when were are merely human. What’s more, Chavers questions whether Black women who suffer from rape and violence are victimized because of the stereotype that Black can somehow “take it” and whether Black women who are ill or suffer failures are simply not “magic enough.”

Elle along with many other media outlets published responses to Chavers’ piece, and Black Twitter and the internet were quickly up in arms in, criticizing Chavers’ views and defending #BlackGirlMagic.

Despite all of these debates going on in cyberspace, however, there’s no discernable discussion of the hashtag here in Canada. One could ask whether this is because there is no Black girl magic here in Canada? Of course not: there are many examples of Black girl magic, such as Black Canadian women television hosts and Black Canadian women fashion designers. However, there is also a significant problem of erasure of Blackness in Canada, which results in increased marginalization of Black women, naturally rendering Black girls even more invisible.

A recent example of the erasure of Blackness is the 2015 Liberal Government Cabinet. When the Liberal party was being praised for forming one of the most diverse Cabinets in Canadian history, few noticed that there was no Black representation in the Cabinet. This erases Black people from the picture of “real change” in Canada, rendering us virtually non-existent. Perhaps hashtags such as #BlackGirlMagic first and foremost remind the world that we exist.

Erasure happens also to Black women in particular as one can point to the Women’s Executive Network list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women for 2015, none of whom are Black. Not one. Again one could ask if this is because there are no powerful Black Canadian women? However, there are many events within the Black community recognizing the achievements of Black women. Thus, no Black women are on the list presumably because few of these achievements are recognized, if ever, by anyone but the Black community and Black women ourselves. This is why we need hashtags like #BlackGirlMagic: to celebrate ourselves and, as one blogger puts it, to create a searchable record of our achievements.

When one searches for ‘#BlackGirlMagic in Canada,’ virtually nothing comes up except for a 2014 story about two twin 10-year-old ballerinas, Nia and Imani Lindsay from Canada, who won scholarships to the prestigious American Ballet Theatre “Young Dancer Summer Workshop.” Despite such an incredible achievement and the obvious talent of these two little Black girls, the only coverage to be found is from independent American websites. Nothing from Canada. This kind of achievement by Canadian Black girls cannot go uncelebrated. Little Black girls like Nia and Imani are the reason recognizing #BlackGirlMagic in Canada is so important.

Moreover, when a 13-year-old Black girl in Toronto is pulled out of class because she has been told by her Black female principal that that her natural hair is unprofessional and that it will limit her career options, it demonstrates how uplifting Black girls in Canada is an absolute necessity, since little Black girls are constantly being bullied into conforming to beauty standards that were not created for them. Thanks to social media we can now hear about them. #BlackGirlMagic reassures Black girls that they are indeed beautiful with the skin and hair they were born with.

A few years ago, Trey Anthony, award-winning Black Canadian female playwright, declared a state of emergency for Black girls, and called for widespread recognition of their beauty and worth. I would say that that state of emergency should be extended, as there is a crisis in the lack of recognition of #BlackGirlMagic in Canada and as Black girls are constantly under attack for doing nothing more than existing.

Until such attacks stop occurring or you can easily scroll through your news feed and hear about the achievements of Black girls locally, we Black girls are just going to have to declare our magic for ourselves.

Tags: body politics

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