I am a 25 year old black (West Indian heritage) woman dating an Indian (Gujarati) man. Having grown up in a small town in Hampshire, buy information pills I was one of my few non-white peers throughout my education. It was not until I started university that I truly understood the world’s diversity, and how much I had been hidden from this during my childhood.
I come from a very mixed background; my mother’s side includes Scottish, Jewish, Spanish, Jamaican and Grenadian whereas my father’s side includes Jamaican and Chinese. I am often asked about my ethnic background, this variety of mixing has given rise to my small nose, large eyes and so called ‘Indian hair’. I love my boyfriend and am proud of his heritage, but in I cannot understand why in 2016 (and living in London) our affection towards each other in public is able to provoke either looks of disgust or sometimes a round of applause from a complete stranger (yes that actually happened). Interestingly, most of these responses come from either the Black or Asian community.
In 2014 The Independent reported that in almost 10% couples in England and Wales were of different ethnicities, compared to 7% in 2001, surely it seems that Britain we are warming to the idea of mixed-race relationships. This could be due to the country’s growing appreciation and influences from different cultures, or perhaps just a result of an increase in immigration. When researching further into statistics regarding Black and Asian relationships, it was clear to me that these mixes are still ‘fairly rare’. However, interestingly when these relationships do progress to marriage, the husband is 6.15 time more like to be Black and the wife Asian. My boyfriend and I seem to be the exception to this rule.
We have now been together for over 2 years, and whilst our relationship and my decision to date someone of a different religion was a surprise to my family, he has been warmly received. It may be the fact that I come from a family full of different cultures, that our relationship was welcomed. However, things have not been so smooth sailing from his side of things. Whilst I knew that there would be a vast amount of culture differences and ideologies we would have to overcome when we started dating, I think I was slightly naive to the extent of them. In a traditional Hindu culture, dating is almost seen as something that should be done in secret, and of course the expectation is for you to date a fellow Indian of Hindu religion; it was somewhat of an unexpected shock to his family to say the least. I am not expected to meet his parents or other family members, until we are getting married or are at least engaged. Worryingly, 2014 relationship data states that inter-ethnic relationships are much less likely to end up in marriage or civil partnership, compared to those who simply co-habit, (8% compared with 12% respectively). But what is the cause of this? Is it simply a case of interracial relations being doomed from the start? Or is it down cultural differences never allowing the relationship to result in marriage?
Whilst I can appreciate his culture and their customs, I often feel as though I am his ‘secret black girlfriend’ who must remain hidden at all costs. And as I get older and begin to think about starting my own family, these issues seem to be taking more of a toll on our relationship. Should thing’s eventually work out and we get married and have children, will they be accepted by his family with their darker complexion and tight coil locks?
My mother recently asked me if I would have to change my Christian religion if we did get married. Will I have 2 weddings and how will my Caribbean beef-eating family get on with his vegetarian Hindu side? These are all questions that I am now having to contemplate. In 2016 I thought that interracial dating would be a lot easier and I understand that the cultural differences between my boyfriend and I are more to do with tradition than modern day society but walking down the street and receiving looks or cheers doesn’t make it any easier.
I came across the term #BlackGirlMagic on Twitter and I will be the first to admit that initially I saw nothing wrong with it. To me it was just a movement that supported young black girls, dosage since the mainstream media chose to ignore them. Many of the supporters of the movement suggest that this is just the black women’s way of responding to the media’s failure to acknowledge their achievements. However after a while I started noticing that women’s magazine would only acknowledged black women’s achievements when associating them with the term Black Girl Magic, and this made me feel uneasy.
It seems that the media only now want to promote the success of black women when associating it with this hashtag trend Black Girl Magic. So I started to ask myself, would they still be interested in these stories if the term didn’t exist? Probably not. If you ask me the media are taking full advantage of Black Girl Magic because it’s popular, but if it wasn’t I doubt they would be publishing content on the achievements of black women so frequently. Something else I noticed was that a lot of these Black Girl Magic articles give off the impression that black women have to be associated with ‘magic’ in order to achieve what their white peers can. Which suggest that we as black women are incapable of doing what other women do naturally and have to possess some sort of ‘magic’ in order to achieve greatness. This then sends a message to society that black women are different, which in return makes society feel the need to treat us differently. Overall the notion of black women being ‘magical’ in this sense still marginalises us from society.
referring to black women as magic does assume we have some sort of supernatural power
Black Girl Magic has also been associated with reinforcing traditional stereotypes of black women. Linda Chavers wrote an article for Elle entitled ‘ Here’s my problem with Black Girl Magic’ where she accused the movement of promoting the strong black women stereotype:
“The “strong, black woman” archetype, which also includes the mourning black woman who suffers in silence, is the idea that we can survive it all, that we can withstand it. That we are, in fact, superhuman. Black girl magic sounds to me like just another way of saying the same thing, and it is smothering and stunting.”
Whether you agree with this comparison or not, it is clear to see that referring to black women as magic does assume we have some sort of supernatural power, which can result in black women being perceived as ‘superhuman’ by society. I can definitely understand Linda’s point of view, however it is equal important for black women to acknowledge the positive outcomes of the Black Girl Magic hashtag.
During Black history month Buzzfeed posted an article entitled ‘Meet the black women bringing black girl magic to the UK’. The article featured some amazing black women achieving great things in the world of sports, media, fashion and music such as boxing champion Nicola Adams and Beats 1 presenter Julie Adenuga. This is clear example of just how the hashtag can be used to promote and aspire young black women, which is always a good thing! Many other articles have been published surrounding the achievements of black women due to the popularity of the Black Girl Magic hashtag.
The Black Girl Magic movement has undoubtedly done some amazing things to help aspire and educate young black women. To be honest most of these stories that are being published on black women would have never left the email inbox if it wasn’t for the movement. Black women have managed to use this hashtag to create an online space where they can promote their success without being scrutinized by wider society. There are many more pros and cons to the Black Girl Magic movement, but one thing that is certain is that the movement has managed to get the media to pay attention to the accomplishments of black women, and that is definitely something to be proud of.
Written by Lateefah Jean