Photo: Essence | Words By Shanice Brim
I am not a fan of having conversations in mixed company. There are some conversations I feel that Black people should have amongst themselves because the nuance can get lost in the company of people who will never know what it is like to be Black. We open ourselves up to people who shouldn’t be involved in certain conversations bogarting the conversation and adding sanctimonious commentary. I can not stand it. When Kendrick Lamar had his infamous interview in Billboard in which he talked about Ferguson and “self-respect” I was infuriated. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a hardcore Kendrick Lamar stan. I think he’s one of the most insightful, creative, and innovative of this generation's rappers. Which is part of why I was so angry. Kendrick Lamar is from Compton, California which is notorious for its cyclical violence and poverty. I’m uncomfortable with telling Black people from neighborhoods in which they are just as busy ducking each other as they are the police that they should not talk about “Black on Black” violence. I don’t live in and have never lived in a world marked by gang violence. I don’t appreciate it being used as a correlation to police brutality but I’m not about telling them their experiences aren’t real. What I was really furious about was him saying all of this in Billboard. Billboard does not cater to Black audiences, it is not Black-owned, and it is not about our issues. I felt it was inappropriate to have that conversation in front of an audience that could easily misinterpret his words and use them against Black people. I think that’s also why so many people were upset. It felt like one of those “telling white folks our business” moments.
This is also why, before I even read it, I balked at an article recently published in Elle that problematizes #Blackgirlmagic. I have never bought an issue of Elle in my life. I have never felt like its audience. They feature Black women in the magazine but something about it has always made me feel like I, as a Black woman, was a demo they could take or leave. So when I see an article like this published in Elle I’m immediately put off. When I see that this article is a direct response to the #BlackGirlMagic editions of Essence magazine (a Black magazine) I was pissed. I’m tired of every moment Black girls have being clouded in cynicism. Every time we celebrate ourselves it becomes a problem to everyone. This even happened when the #CarefreeBlackGirl hashtag took off. Literally all #carefreeblackgirl is about is Black girls claiming their right to be happy, claiming their right to be free, claiming their right to not always be portrayed as bogged down by the pressures and cruelties of life. And yet, some people were upset by the hashtag. They felt it “erased” Black women’s issues.
And I can’t help but feel that this article is an extension of that. This need to take whatever Black women create to celebrate and encourage themselves and each other and completely pathologize it. Yes, pathologize. Sometimes it feels like when you’re a Black woman every celebration is a diagnosis. We acknowledge our success and people spread gross, racist memes about “Strong Black women who don’t need no man.” Our success then becomes funny and is often thrown back in our faces. We call ourselves #CarefreeBlackGirls and some Black men think it’s appropriate to use the hashtag for accusing us of being too “carefree” to care about #Blacklivesmatter. We celebrate our sexuality and we’re hoes and thots. Someone has something negative to say about every moment of joy we have. Every parade is rained on by an armchair psychologist. The writer of the article even accuses Black women of “feigning their enthusiasm” for the sake of the hashtag. We can’t even smile in our photos without being analyzed and some deep ugly meaning being attached to it.
Now, the writer of this article is Black. And the fact that she thought it appropriate to publish this article in Elle of all places instead of a Black/Black-owned publication is questionable to me. The fact that this feels like a direct hit to a special edition of a Black women’s magazine dedicated to celebrating Black women and their accomplishments seems extra questionable to me. The fact that the creator of Black Girls Are Magic apparel was not consulted at all in order to understand how the hashtag came about and what her intentions were made me feel icky. This entire section was particularly vitriolic and, in my opinion, violent:
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 party thought she was magical and wouldn't feel anything. Maybe the school security guard who 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.
How can you take something made to celebrate Black women and to be utilized by Black women to uplift themselves and make it something so ugly and vaguely victim-blamey? How dare you, in a white publication, attack your fellow Black women for loving themselves. I’m disgusted by this article, I’m disgusted with Elle for publishing it. I feel they saw an issue of a Black women’s magazine and the excitement it stirred, decided to post something hateful, and used a Black woman to do it. There’s no way the editors sat in a room together and decided to post this article without some malice. The whole thing serves as yet another ugly reminder of how Black women are attacked and pathologized for publically loving themselves.
Shanice Brim is a 25 year old New Yorker by way of Alabama, New Jersey and California. She’s an avid reader, Beyoncé enthusiast and fan of the film Clueless.