Monday, September 24, 2018

By Constance C. R. White

Black women are having more than a moment, and their impact goes far beyond wizardry.

Beyond Black Girl Magic: This OZY original series celebrates the creativity, power, influence and leadership of Black women.

Do Black women possess a special magic? Don’t get it twisted; I’m not suggesting that with a wave of their mascara wands Black women can make everything right with the world. But something’s afoot. More than having a moment, Black women have been quietly gaining ground and are having an exponential impact beyond their numbers, toppling longstanding barriers of race and gender.

There are notable new voices in this crowd. In this OZY original series, we spotlight a new coterie of women who have picked up the baton to continue the strides made by women like Barbara Jordan and Donna Brazile in politics, Shonda Rhimes and Issa Rae in entertainment, Naomi Campbell and Robin Givhan in fashion and Serena and Venus Williams in sports. The NFL’s Jennifer King, media’s Liv Little, entertainment’s Christine Sanders, Silicon Valley’s Alana Hewitt and fashion’s Leomie Anderson are just some of the women who have our attention.

The prominence of glamorously married Meghan Markle and Serena Williams led one wag to quip, “Black women are the new trophy wives.” That’s a real turn of events. If true, Black women give new meaning to the pejorative term — these women are all accomplished and admired as well as beautiful.

African-American women weigh in more than their White counterparts on social media. They represent the fastest-growing segment of small business owners and are getting college degrees in ever higher numbers. Theirs is among the highest rate of voting participation. They have been central players in two of our era’s most powerful civil rights movements — the #MeToo and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtags were created by Black women. We’re on a first-name, one-name basis with two of the globe’s biggest cultural totems, Beyoncé and Rihanna. Not only are they obviously Black women, but each also understands that Black women are the underpinning of their impressive brands. Rihanna’s extensions into lingerie and beauty, for example, have been wildly successful with their value proposition for Black women.

As Michelle Obama releases her first book, Becoming, and sells out stadiums for her book tour — not unlike Beyoncé or Rihanna — many buyers will be Black women. They were, after all, an irreplaceable factor in her husband rising to the highest office in the land and in her becoming first lady. Mrs. Obama’s years in the White House continue to resonate and generate historically high popularity ratings.

Call it Black girl magic if you will, but do any of these successes have to do with wizardry? Black women aren’t doing anything different than they’ve done before. White women’s feminism has often been Black women’s daily reality. They juggle family and work, and they know there’s no darn shining prince on a white horse, or even a black horse at full gallop, coming to the rescue. They demand equal pay because it could mean the difference between paying the rent this month or not. Black women often show that the bonds of sisterhood are important and powerful against the male gaze that would sexualize them and divide them, bringing them to their knees.

Despite the systemic issues and social micro-aggressions Black women face every day, their spirit of optimism and faith, their productivity, fortitude and creativity have made them important to the present and future shape of this country. And whether that’s magical, or something Beyond Black Girl Magic, we believe it’s something to celebrate.

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