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How #BlackGirlMagic Is a Rallying Cry In the Face of Adversity

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

 By Olivia Pandora Stokes

Being a black woman in America tends to be complex, mostly because society is constantly attempting to make us fit very rigid stereotypes that lack complexity. This isn’t just speculation—this type of dehumanizing treatment is immediate, according to a study by Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality. “What we found is that adults see black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” the lead author, Rebecca Epstein, said in a statement. The study also found that participants believed black girls needed less comfort, nurturing and support than their white counterparts. People can dismiss these results as not accurate or not relevant, but black women know they are.

So what do you do when the world is telling you your life is less valuable than the ones around you? What do you do when faced with discrimination and disparity? You celebrate. You celebrate the lives of other black women and girls. When we see other black women navigating through a world that doesn’t accept us as we are, we feel the need to lift each other up—and we do. That’s what #BlackGirlMagic means.

When I was in elementary school, I remember a teacher insisting that I couldn’t read a book above grade level. As a hardcore book nerd I was offended, but as I look back at her behavior now I can recognize her actions and comments were seeped in racism. Although my K-12 education was mostly positive, there were definite moments when people attempted to diminish me simply because I was a black girl. The odds are not in our favor. According to The New York Timesdata shows that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls. A recent study from Villanova University found that even once black girls make it through college, the darker their skin is, the more likely they are to be perceived as unintelligent.

In light of this data, it's inevitable that as black women we understand that behind every success we achieve, there were moments when each woman struggled. We know even when we defy stereotypes, there are others who won’t be able to view us as valuable. Former First Lady Michelle Obama is a perfect example. America seems to have fallen in love with her intelligence, her compassion, yet many can’t see past her skin color. In the face of dehumanizing attacks, such as being called "an ape in heels," she responded with grace. As she said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, “When they go low, we go high.” While she does receive praise, she often experiences comments that are vile, and just like the rest of us, she's not immune to criticism. At a recent Denver speech, Michelle admitted, “The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut. I felt how they intended."

In order for black girls and women to be successful, we have to see ourselves as valuable and reinforce that every day. In a world that attempts to dehumanize us, we must continue to explore the different aspects of our life in a truthful way. #BlackGirlMagic does not mean we are immune to abuse and hate, it means we can defy it. I’m hopeful for the future because I’ve seen firsthand how other black women at my college display leadership skills and believe in themselves. That is what we must do to make our world a better place.


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