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
Leicester

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.

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