Why it’s time to debunk the myth of “Black girl magic”

Who do you assume of if you hear the time period “Black girl magic?” Do you assume of four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles? Tennis star and the highest-paid feminine athlete Naomi Osaka? Maybe Grammy-winner India Arie comes to thoughts, or the award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson? Every of these ladies is a beacon of energy, expertise, and excellence whereas additionally displaying the braveness and vulnerability to say, “sufficient.”

Black girl magic lives in the identical un-MARVEL-ous universe as Black Superwoman, who has the doubtful distinction of being likened to a syndrome. As Dr. Cheryl L. Woods-Giscombé explains in her 2010 study: the Black Superwoman function has its advantages and its liabilities—with an emphasis on the liabilities.

Black ladies, by the very nature of their existence, face the stark actuality of experiencing double oppression: gender discrimination on one hand and racism on the different. The myth of the Black girl is that she is impermeable. This assigned impermeability has a big affect on her psychological, bodily, and emotional well being.

Though Black ladies have persistently overcome obstacles to obtain nice success—corresponding to turning into the largest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. or main the majority of social justice reform actions—these ladies are, at the identical time (as a rule), each the breadwinner and first caretaker of their households, which makes this success come at an exceedingly excessive value.

Black ladies and psychological well being

Black ladies are at a larger threat of affected by nervousness and despair due to these stressors, and in accordance to research, nervousness for Black ladies is extra power and the signs extra intense than of their white counterparts. Regardless of this, Black ladies are much less possible to discover and acquire correct therapy, and for good motive.

First, there exists a scarcity of variety and cultural competency inside the therapeutic group that ends in a scarcity of understanding round the heightened stressors of racism, discrimination, and sexism that exist in the on a regular basis lives of Black ladies. These failings are consultant of the failings of society and are expressed in each area, huge and small.

Take Naomi Osaka, who just lately misplaced her match representing Japan in the Olympics and cited the intense stress she was experiencing. This was after she confronted condemnation and threats for withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon so as to prioritize her psychological well being over the media calls for of 4 tennis organizations. Simone Biles echoed Osaka’s sentiment when she pulled out of her crew’s gymnastics closing this week, saying that she needed to deal with her psychological well being and that “psychological well being is extra prevalent in sports activities proper now.”

Actress and Academy Award winner Taraji P. Henson additionally grew to become a crusader for psychological well being particularly because it relates to Black ladies, saying, “Folks anticipate Black ladies to be robust. We’re invincible. We’re magical, majestic, one thing different . . . Why can’t we simply be human?”

Iconic songstress India Arie grew to become a champion for wellness after coming into the music trade and having her psychological, religious, and bodily well being hit laborious on each degree. She just lately launched an internet observe, The Wellness of We, which seeks to advance collective well-being and group care.

These tales are greater than a headline for Black ladies in America. They’re an acknowledgment of a problem that girls of colour, significantly Black ladies, face daily as they wrestle at the altar of Black girl magic—the perpetually resilient and robust super-heroine stereotype that traps extra ladies of colour than it frees.

Myth or mistake

Black girl magic is a label born from a motion created to have fun the resilience and energy of Black ladies and has change into synonymous with super-heroines who can do something and conquer all the pieces. It’s empowerment on overdrive, betraying a dangerous and unrealistic perception that Black ladies possess some sort of secret magic that infuses them with an inherent power to stand up to all kinds of stress, ache, and adversity. It, in impact, makes them invincible and—worse—answerable for the harsh and punitive reactions they get once they don’t dwell up to the hype. Blame is a lot simpler than inspecting and dismantling the methods, organizations, and considering that trigger the stress, ache, and adversity in the first place.

Although the Black girl magic label is embraced by many Black ladies as a result of of its unique intention to have fun our capacity to overcome the challenges, obstacles, and institutional boundaries which were positioned towards us, it has change into a double-edged sword. The sharp edge of the knife cuts deep as Black ladies wrestle to be seen as human—as easy and sophisticated as that’s—but have grown accustomed to struggling in silence and being drained, worn out, neglected, and overworked, all the whereas coping with fixed societal prejudices and pressures. These struggles usually lead to a every day battle to deal with nervousness and despair that has usually change into the norm for Black ladies.

Debunking the myth

How can we change the Black girl magic myth with a actuality (and tradition) that empowers Black ladies to embrace larger self-care and rejects these dangerous expectations and stereotypes?

First, let’s begin by celebrating Black ladies corresponding to Simone Biles, Taraji P. Henson, Naomi Osaki, and India Arie for having the braveness to dismantle the myth, share their tales, and prioritize their well-being and psychological well being. Let’s even have the braveness to put daring actions in place that be certain that the guardrails exist to defend and keep the psychological well being of each particular person and albeit, society at giant.

Actions for Us All Psychological Well being America encourages us to “Reimagine Self-Care for Black Folks” by these key actions:

  • Attain out to reliable individuals who can maintain area for you
  • Join with issues that carry you pleasure or vitality
  • Ask your self what you need and wish proper every now and then advocate for it
  • Revisit your coping mechanisms and take away people who now not serve you
  • Create boundaries for your self in the ways in which work particularly for you

Every of us is usually a beacon for others by prioritizing our wellness. For Black ladies, prioritizing self is a revolutionary act. It’s an act of survival. It’s an act of generosity. By following the examples of ladies like Biles, Osaka, Henson, and Arie, we will be greater than magical. We will be human.


Wema Hoover is a world chief and a Range, Fairness & Inclusion government. She has led DEI at a number of Fortune 500 firms, together with Google, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.