While the outrage is understandable, it's also unfortunately familiar. This keeps happening, and it has to stop. In the past, hashtag movements created to celebrate people of color have been co-opted with the same racist ideology, most notably #WhiteGirlsRock, which was started in 2013 in opposition of BET's "Black Girls Rock" celebration of black womanhood and beauty.
The #BlackGirlsAreMagic hashtag is not designed to exclude anyone, but to celebrate a group who often feels ignored and unappreciated. It's an expression of sisterhood and solidarity. There is something incredibly empowering about putting an idea out there that you have been socialized to believe isn't true. By tweeting it into existence as it were, black women are asserting their personhood and their self-love, not denying anyone else's.
Let's make something clear: All women rock. White women, black women, Latina women, Asian women, all women are beautiful and unique. And all women must grapple with unrealistic beauty standards and expectations. But the fact of the matter is that society doesn't teach us that we're all beautiful. In the hierarchical structure of beauty, white beauty has been privileged above all others. It's evident in the messaging we get on television and in movies, in magazines, and on fashion runways (where 87 percent of models are white).
This is the reason so many women of color struggle with beauty issues that are tied specifically to their race -- the messaging is that they aren't beautiful or special or worthy because they aren't white. White women, while they do receive harmful messages, are not made to believe they are inferior because of their race. As one white Twitter user eloquently put it:
There are many women of color online who are actively trying to combat negative racial beauty messaging by openly embracing and loving what makes them special. They've created blogs like Reclaiming The Latina Tag and hashtags like #AsianFaceAppreciationDay and #carefreeblackgirl. In 2014, blogger CaShawn Thompson coined the phrase "Black girls are magic!" on Twitter, which turned into a popular hashtag across the web.
“I say ‘magic’ because it’s something that people don’t always understand,” Thompson said in an interview with The LA Times. “Sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other black women."
It's hard to understand what is so threatening about women of color exerting self-confidence. In a perfect world, all women would be celebrated equally. But we're not there yet. Hashtags like #WhiteGirlsAreMagic may continue to spring up, and their most ardent supporters, unapologetic white supremacists, will never care about the damage that they do. But we need to question why these hashtags gain steam to begin with, and why they appear only when people of color try to empower themselves. Expressions of self-love should never be met with hate.
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