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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Black Girl Magic Is Not For Sale

When you see a Black woman, you’re witnessing a revolution. In a country so determined to rest its back on her shoulders, while at the same time calling her worthless, I see magic. She’s not superhuman, or a monolith. There is a lot of groundwork for us to be present, to walk that walk with an unbelievable swagger. The Black woman is becoming more of herself, building the truth in a world that lies to us about who we are.

To be both Black and a woman is to wake up every day in your body, where you are policed by your skin, by your gender, by your existence. Loving ourselves completely is a protest.

So, when Karen Decker, U.S. diplomat to Afghanistan, suggested that Afghan women might find inspiration for their struggles against the Taliban oppression in the #BlackGirlMagic social media movement, it gave me a disturbing pause.

“Are Afghans familiar with #BlackGirlMagic and the movement it inspired?” Decker wrote Wednesday in the now-deleted tweet, which was shared widely online. “Do Afghan girls need a similar movement? What about Afghan women? Teach me, ready to learn,” Decker continued, tagging Beyoncé, Lizzo and actress Regina King.

The Taliban has stripped women of even their basic rights. Female students have been banned from universities as well as middle and high schools, with women restricted from most jobs, banned from parks and gyms, and forced to cover their faces in public under strict rules.

The truth is, Black women are more likely to be killed at almost three times the rate of white women, yet when we are missing or murdered, the headlines do not call for our safety. We are more likely to die giving birth. Black girls are the most suspended of any student group in our nation - suspended for asking questions, sending messages, for the way they wear their hair, and how they dress. Even in the workplace, we navigate antiblackness and sexism.

We are at war with the world just to live. Just to breathe. But the Black Girl Magic is ours. It's our way of celebrating this uncontrollable, relentless, beautiful joy that exists despite the obstacles. It’s sort of a contrast between having the freedom to just be this extraordinary being and also the work it takes to continuously push yourself to hold space for that.

To suggest that also Afghan women need to do is learn from Beyonce is dismissing their particular struggles. Decker’s comments were tone deaf to the plight of Afghan women, who have seen their rights severely cut since the ultra-conservative Taliban came back to power in 2021. Decker asked if the country needed a “movement,” which shows how oblivious she is to its real need, which is food and safety. She’s trying to conjure magic from Lizzo and Regina King but unaware of the impending famine? As if, somehow, Black Girl Magic can just be purchased off the shelf for anyone to put on. She may think Afghan women and Black women are fighting the same fight. It’s sad that she has no idea what either one is. It’s cowardly to lump us all together; our pains, struggles, history. It’s also disingenuous to ask celebrities for “help” and to show her the way. The way to what?

Afghan women deserve to have their own voices amplified, and show the truth of what is happening to them. The U.S. government has to prioritize Afghan student visas. For example, female university students with pending visa applications should have their immigration decisions fast-tracked. The traps of new immigrants falling prey to generations-long cycles of poverty and income inequality requires investing in education. The government, as well as businesses and philanthropies, can boost efforts to host Afghan students in U.S. universities.

What I know for sure is that Black women are not magical negroes. We are not here to save the day. Our magic is not pixie dust that we carry around in a waistband under our clothes. The magic is not for sale.

Karen, do your job.


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