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Concerning the Magic in Your Melanin, Black Women

Concerning the Magic in Your Melanin, Black Women


Your Melanin is not magic.

Magic is exotic, it is fantastic, but your glory, dear sisters, is commonplace.

It inhabits Wednesday nights, Thursday nights, NBC Specials, Twitter, Facebook, and the beauty of this moment you hold in your hands. Your brilliance is human. It is in your eyes, in your creative works — it even resides in the way you style your hair. It is in your dance routines, in your musical melodies and the dirges occasionally occupying your spoken word pieces.

In short, all of what you do seems so otherworldly because we have been fatally conditioned to see you as less than. So when you produce amazing works of art or science, or perform admirably in film and television roles, we want to call your achievements magical.

But what if what we innocently call #BlackGirlMagic is simply Black girls being Black in public?

What if by calling our brilliant Black women who are doing these things that they have by and large always done “magical,” we are in fact doing them a critical disservice even as we seek to honor them?

Tracing the patterns of history, we find

Sojourner Truth
Harriet Tubman
Audre Lorde

and so many other Black women doing things not only for the liberation of Black women, but the liberation of Blackness as a whole. I don’t know if they would have classified what they contributed to the pages of history as magic. I think they would have called it survival. They simply chose to do what they believed to both be within their capacity and their duty to do.

I also realize the oddness of this essay coming from the head and hands of a Black man — the jarring idea of a man examining phrasing coined by Black women for Black women about Black women in a society that sees Black women as disposable. However, we must critique even our adulation of Black women and ensure that it has not become a standard that is unreachable, or that seems to make the achievements of Black women seem like they are something far and beyond the abilities of ordinary Black women. Because every history-making Black woman started off as an ordinary Black woman.

There is no actual magic in our skin.

The beauty we see in our melanin radiates from inside — it comes from our lineage, from our history. Our grandmothers and our mothers and our aunts — who all took part in the mundane struggle to provide a decent life among people who saw their skin and saw something to hate — looked at their reflections and saw something else. Something that was not quite magic, but something that could not be denied. They saw hope that their skin would not always be a target of hatred.

Love yourself, love your skin, but remember that the glory is not your skin, the glory is you.

It is what you do wearing that skin like a badge of honor, in memoriam of those who came before you — those who wore that skin in the face of hoses, in the face of lynchings, in the face of the whips and chains with the full knowledge that their skin was the target, their melanin was the target.

You may not have magic in your melanin, but you have something greater. You have the collective strength of a people who have defied odds since time immemorial — who cut pyramids and built grand civilizations while others rolled rocks and blew fire into caves.

There may not be magic in your melanin, but there is strength there. There is love. There is power. There is joy. There is history.

Draw deeply from your sisters, from your aunts and from your grandmothers for there you will find the hope that pushed them forward.

You may not find magic, but you will find peace.
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