Letter: What’s up with ‘Black Girl Magic’?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I’m new to the area, leaving cold Illinois behind, and living here since Aug. 1, 2018. I have really appreciated the Mountain Xpress’ articles and Community Calendar. I look forward to Wednesdays so I can learn more about what is happening in this beautiful area.

However, I must take issue with a caption in [a recent] edition, Feb. 27. After turning to page 10, I saw the picture of Asheville’s new city manager, Ms. Debra Campbell [“Woman With A Plan: Campbell Settles In, Charts New Course for City”]. The first three words in the caption, in bold, read “Black Girl Magic.” I thought, what a strange way to introduce an article about Ms. Campbell. Why use the term “black”? Was it to connect it to “magic” to make “black magic”? The term “girl” really offended me. It’s obvious she’s not a “girl” (no offense to Ms. Campbell). It smacks of calling adult African-Americans “boy” and “girl,” and giving less status than whites.

My next thought was that there might be a connection between those three words and the text of the article. But, I read the whole article and saw nothing in there that connected to those three words.

I know the writer of this article, and caption (I assume), meant no harm. But, I feel strongly that we must be careful of our word usage, especially writing for a newspaper where your “voice” is the words you use. Also, given the South’s (for that matter, the whole nation’s) past in race relations, we all need to be careful with our words and thoughts.

Let’s do better in the future!

— Rick Johnson

Editor’s response: Thank you for sharing your concerns. We agree that choosing the appropriate words is essential in journalism. As it turns out, however, “Black Girl Magic” is a celebratory expression embraced and popularized by black women. As Julee Wilson writes in The Huffington Post, CaShawn Thompson originated the phrase to “celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of black women.” She continues: “Black Girl Magic is a term used to illustrate the universal awesomeness of black women. It’s about celebrating anything we deem particularly dope, inspiring or mind-blowing about ourselves.” So, with that in mind, we stand by our caption.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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