It’s our last episode of the ZD Semester! In keeping with the season, Alyssa and Brendane discuss #BlackGirlMagic via the popular Netflix holiday movie Jingle Jangle (SPOILERS)! We discuss the origins of the phrase via CaShawn Thompson and her coinage of the hashtag Black Girls ARE Magic and how it is both celebration of Black women and girls making a way out of no way and critique of a society determined to leave us behind. We read Savannah Shange’s incredible essay “Black Girl Ordinary” which teaches us to celebrate the everyday achievements of everyday Black girls. Then, we deep dive into the wonderful world of Journey Jangle – is she really the epitome of the carefree Black girl or is she just another mule for the uplift of a Black man? Listen and find out! Finally, we discuss the problems of Black women saving American democracy – AGAIN.
Listen all the way through for a little surprise that will help you in our book giveaway!
Zora’s Daughters Podcast: Episode Ten
Co-Hosts: Brendane Tynes and Alyssa A.L. James
Title: The Square Root of Impossible is Black Girls
Total Length: 01:08:47
[00:00] Alyssa: The last thing I have to say about this movie is: not Forest Whitaker dancing to Afrobeats! [Laughter]
[0:22] Alyssa: Hi everyone! It’s Alyssa here. My pronouns are she/her/hers. And if Brendane had a superpower, it would be knowing the right thing to say in all situations. Whether it’s to make you feel good, to tell you that “Oof, girl, you’re doing something wrong,” or to make you feel supported, Brendane’s got the word.
[00:42] Brendane: I’m dead. I will, what they say, “clear a bitch.” Isn’t that what the kids say? But hi everyone, it’s Brendane. And my pronouns are she/her/hers. And if Alyssa had a superpower, it would be making her loved ones feel loved no matter what. AKA that ride-for-life energy, you know? I texted her this morning in a slight distress, and she was ready to come out swingin’. And also-
[01:12] Alyssa: I was!
[01:13] Brendane: Yes, you were ready, like, I was like, “Oh, let me just, let me be real about what happened so you don’t think that I’m in distress.” [Laughter] [unclear] being dramatic. Also, your second superpower, I would say you have multiple, is the detective skills because you be findin’ shit out and I just be amazed.
[01:30] Alyssa: In another life I think I would be a spy. So that’s—
[01:35] Brendane: I see it.
[01: 35] Alyssa: Yeah.
[01:36] Brendane: I see it. [Laughter]
[01:38] Alyssa: I would want it, I still want it. I love spy movies and spy novels. And I think if I was more patriotic that probably would have been my second career. But here we are. Anyway [laughter]. Anyways, before we get started, we just wanted to shout out our supporters this week. So a huge thank you to LaShelle, Mayyadda, Davian, and Tina for donating to the podcast. Your contributions are much, much appreciated!
[02:08] Brendane: Absolutely. And if you would like to donate to the podcast, head over to our website, zorasdaughters.com and click “Support ZDP.” And, of course, for the rest of y’all out there saving up your Christmas coins, right? We love love love other forms of support, which can include sharing our posts on social media or leaving a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Thank you so much to Hannah and Samurai ‘Mas—I’m sorry if I mispronounce your name—for your great comments. We really love and appreciate it.
[02:43] Alyssa: Yay! All right, thank you, y’all. Girl. Girl. Brendane. Can you believe it’s our last episode of the semester?
[02:55] Brendane: Yes and no. Like, I’m tired, but this has been such a dream. The things that we’ve done to make this season happen, like the fundraising, the production and editing—which girl, thank you so much ‘cuz my brain don’t do that—and social media, like, it was definitely challenging, but like I said, this podcast has been a blessing. Like, you are superstar in the editing booth—that’s what I call it, “the editing booth”— with the designs for the flyers, like the website, like all of that. And I’m just so appreciative of your labor.
[03:33] Alyssa: Thank you. Well, as I always say, whenever we do our talks, you are the brains of this operation. You know, without your suggestions on what to read and kinda helping me through them as well. You know, this podcast wouldn’t really, it wouldn’t be what it is. So I am also appreciative of your labor and presence with me.
[03:54] Brendane: It’s a partnership. It’s a partnership.
[03:56] Alyssa: Yeah. And we’re working on that, y’all. We bout to make, we bout to make it official!
[04:00] Brendane: Yo, we makin’ some moves. 2021 lookout [sucks teeth] for us!
[04:03] Alyssa: Mm hmm. And honestly, we’ve been seeing all of your Spotify Wrap-ups, and I’m so shook as to how many people’s top five that we’re in.
[04:13] Brendane: Like y’all actually listen to us.
[04:16] Alyssa: Exactly. I’m just really grateful that, you know, people really just want to hear two grad students and friends shooting the shit, talking about stuff, doing stuff that we do anyways. So we’re appreciative of that. There’s this one professor, and I really love what she said about the podcast, she said that it’s like we’re breaking the fourth wall of scholarly production and discussion. And I was like, “That is perfect.” That really covers what it is that I hoped that we were doing, you know, just demonstrating that academics aren’t just people up in some ivory tower locked away from the real world. Well, at least not all of us [laughter].
[04:55] Brendane: Some of us prefer to live that way. But this podcast has also brought us so many opportunities. Like we’ve been able to do Black feminist antiracism workshops with different companies. And we’ve done different talks and presentations with classes. And while we’re on that subject, right, like, we are open in 2021 for presentations and workshops. So if y’all want us to come and talk to your student group, to your classroom, to your department, to your company, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[05:29] Alyssa: And we will be there. As we promised in the last episode, we have a couple events to announce. [imitates airhorn] Ayyy! So first, we are hosting a discussion section. Y’all asked for it. We are providing. We’re hosting a discussion section on December 10 at 3 pm Eastern Standard Time. Is it Eastern Daylight Time? You know what? Whatever. New York time [laughter].
[05:58] Brendane: New York time, 3pm, on the East Coast.
[06:02] Alyssa: Yes. And that is going to be on Zoom. And it’ll just be an opportunity to meet and discuss with us and other listeners about topics that we talked about over the semester, as well as have us answer some of your questions. So if you’d like to participate, just DM us or email us with your name and email address and just let us know a topic or a question that you might want to discuss with the group. So, that’s it, simple DM, you know. And we’ll send you the Zoom link an hour before the event because we’re hoping not to get Zoom-bombed. But yes, we’re really looking forward to discussing and communing with all of you.
[06:36] Brendane: Yes, and we have a little surprise for you all. And if you follow us on Instagram, you’ve seen the clue that we have for our second end-of-the semester event because we just love you so much. It’s a photo of a couple of books. And if that didn’t clue you in da-da-da! It’s a book giveaway!
[06:57] Alyssa: Da da da!
[06:57] Brendane: [Laughter] Da da da! We have teamed up with Cafe con Libros, which is an Afro-Latinx-owned indie, feminist bookstore and coffee shop in Brooklyn. And we’re going to give away not one, but two to two of y’all. And this book is going to be dope, it’s going to be relevant from at some point this year. So up for grabs is a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, which is a collection of eight “lost,” quote-unquote, short stories that she wrote during the Harlem Renaissance. And another lucky listener will get a copy of Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, which we discussed in episode seven, “Holy is the Black Woman.”
[07:44] Alyssa: That’s right, that’s right. So the contest opens on December 9 at 12 pm. Gosh, I wrote Eastern Standard Time again, but I think it might be Eastern Daylight Time. But anyways, 12 pm—
[07:54] Brendane: On the East coast!
[07:55] Alyssa: New York time [laughter]. And it closes December 15 at 11:59 pm, same time zone. And so winners will be announced by December 18 and to enter all you need to do is like the photo, follow Zora Daughter’s and Cafe con Libros on Instagram, tag a friend, and share the posts in your stories and tag us because hashtags aren’t working on Instagram right now. And we will also be posting little bonus questions throughout the week that’ll get you an extra entry. So I hope that you have been keeping up with the episodes. Just get a little bit, just get a little bit mo’.
[08:32] Brendane: Just—and if you haven’t, it’s no better time than the present, you know? We have a lot going on over here, so we’re just gonna jump into the episode with our “What’s the Word” segment. So, Alyssa, what’s the word for today?
Our word for the day is actually a phrase: #BlackGirlMagic. So where did this phrase come from? It seemed almost like all of a sudden people were just saying it, commenting with it, posting #BlackGirlMagic things and putting it on the covers of magazines. But it’s actually a shortened version of a phrase coined by CaShawn Thompson in 2013, who started using the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreMagic. So it wasn’t just a phrase that suddenly went viral, and I don’t even know if we can say viral anymore because it’s just triggering re: the rona [laughter].
[09:20] Brendane: Mm mm. The panny.
[09:24] Alyssa: [Laughter] The panny. But it’s a phrase that actually gradually gained in popularity. So she was just kind of, you know, using it on Twitter, using it among her friends. And then she made some T-shirts, and some sweaters and eventually they were worn by celebrities like Willow Smith and Amandla Stenberg.
[09:42] Brendane: Right, so in CaShawn Thompson’s words, she told the LA Times, “I say ‘magic’ because it’s something that people don’t always understand. Sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, but a lot of times, the only people supporting us are actually other Black women.”
[10:00] Alyssa: Right, so CaShawn Thompson is the epitome of that. People were like, “This phrase ‘Black Girl Magic,’ it just came out of nowhere.” But it actually came from somewhere. It started between her and her circle of friends. And then it kind of grew from there. But of course, we can also say that the narrative of Internet movements and phrases coming out of nowhere is just another instantiation of Blackness as nothingness and so I’m, I’m referring to Afropessimism here, which we really need to do an episode on [laughter].
[10:29] Brendane: Like, we’ve been skirting around it.
[10:30] Alyssa: I know [laughter]. But the fact of a Black creator makes it easy for mainstream culture to erase our contributions. So, we saw that with [the] Renegade dance. And, as I learned yesterday, the phrase, the term “cuffing season.” Like everyone and every brand’s mama says “cuffing season,” and I had no idea that cuffing season was actually created by a Black man. He designed calendars that said, like, where in cuffing season we are and all of this stuff. And so, I just want to shout out Rinny Riot on Instagram for sharing that.
[11:05] Brendane: And I had no idea that cuffing season was that deep, but—. Well, one is probably ‘cuz I’m a serial monogamist, and two—okay, me and my therapist talk about that—and, um, it also just makes sense. Like when do Black people ever really have bad things? But—
[11:23] Alyssa: Right?
[11:24] Brendane: I say that and then I say we’ll get to that later. Um, but CaShawn Thompson developed #BlackGirlsAreMagic as a way to honor the Black women and girls in her life who make a way out of no way. That’s the common Black colloquialism. And make Black life when and where it should not be. So both #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackGirlsAreMagic celebrate the contributions of Black women and girls in a world that is determined to erase them, negate them, co-opt them, blackfish them. [Sighs] And you know dot dot dot. But the primary difference between “Black girls are magic” and “Black girl magic,” in my theorization, right, is that the phrase “Black girl magic” operates as a, and I’m quoting Sarah Whitney here, “mediated discourse affirming African American girls’ contributions, strength, and resilience” that can be separated from their bodies, right? So you can have Black girl magic exist, and people will use it as something that is separated from the actual body or “flesh,” [e.g.,] of a Black girl. But saying that Black girls are magic serves as this kind of complete statement that affirms the humanity and embodied magic that is Black life in social death. And it is inseparable from the girl herself. So this “magic” then becomes the making of life, an ordinary, which we’ll get to, or an excellent one, one that is filled with care, joy, and community. You know, the daily shit that Black girls be doin’, right?
[12:57] Alyssa: Mm hm. So what do you mean by mediated discourse?
[13:02] Brendane: When I say mediated discourse, I’m— saying that it’s, it’s mediated through different types of media, like social media, news, and that’s like the two that’s comin’ off the top of my head. Even academic papers that are about #BlackGirlMagic [are a part of the mediated discourse]. So it—mediation means it has to pass through something in order to get to you, right? And so, in that process of mediation, there can be like, misnaming, a misrecognition of Black girls, which can make #BlackGirlMagic problematic. It’s when we get to that mediation and then it becomes something that’s disfigured from what CaShawn Thompson originally imagined.
[13:39] Alyssa: Right, interesting. So in that sense, the phrase “Black girls are magic” is more humanizing than “Black girl magic”?
[13:48] Brendane: Yes, I think so because, because there is, it becomes, it removes it from being like a thing. Like #BlackGirlMagic is an object, something that you can label versus saying that this person is magic, right? Um, so that’s how I imagine it. That makes a difference in my head.
[14:06] Alyssa: That makes sense. Yeah. I mean, I remember when Jesse Williams, he referenced the phrase at the BET Awards a few years back, and he said, “Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.” And I was nodding my head like, “Yaaas, snaps, yaaaas” [laughter].
[14:19] Brendane: So. But then he left—Anyway.
[14:22] Alyssa: Well, yeah. But, like, okay, you know, we’re snapping for, we’re snapping for what he said [laughter], not what he did [laughter]. But it’s like, yeah, Black girls are magic, because we’ve faced unbelievable adversity, and yet, we’re still here. So this phrase is very much rooted in pain. And so it’s both a celebration of overcoming oppression and dehumanization. It’s basically a celebration of our survival. But it’s also a critique of a society that leaves Black girls behind, particularly in favor of supporting the “endangered,” you know, the quote-unquote “endangered Black male.”
[14:57] Brendane: Preach on it.
[14:58] Alyssa: [Laughter] And so, Savannah Shange, who we are reading today actually, you know, she calls it “Black boy special.” So it’s like this “category of reverence and urgency that has coalesced around the century of handwringing over the fate of Black men.” And so that’s her quote. And so in that sense, I have some worry about, like, about the dehumanizing potential of people seeing us as magic. It’s like, “Oh, she’s magic, she’ll overcome anything. She doesn’t need our help, support, protection.” And then in that sense, it perpetuates the strong Black woman stereotype. And so, I think a lot of the suffering of Black women and girls gets obscured, particularly as a result of our North American social interest in, you know, the American dream, seeing people persevere and overcome and pull up their bootstraps.
[15:43] Brendane: Mm hmm. And what you’re saying is actually like one of the main critiques of #BlackGirlMagic. And since it is this mediated discourse, that mediation, as I said, right, allows for this kind of misrecognition of Black girls’ suffering, and also like a demonization of Black girls and a normalization of this kind of “ordinary” Black girl experience. And that’s framed by capitalist, misogynoirist, like, anti-Black violence. It makes the ordinary Black girl experience something that is unremarkable and thus can be ignored.
[16:16] Alyssa: And it is remarkable because it’s like, it’s remarkable that we’re even here. Like, that is, that is the fundamental thing that makes us magic.
[16:24] Brendane: Right, ‘cuz y’all keep tryna kill us. But anyway, the discourse—
[16:28] Alyssa: We’re still here!
[16:29] Brendane: We’re still here! Despite the haters, we’re still here [laughter]. This discourse also provides a space for respectability politics to flourish. And I think after 2013, we see this kind of, you know, the Black Girl Magic show that’s sponsored by Essence and it’s on BET, and this kind of, like, uptake of it. But to propagate a certain type of #BlackGirlMagic, there’s a rubric where, you know, you have to be a Black girl who’s 12, who’s graduating with her second bachelor’s degree in engineering, who’s also in her third year [of] her PhD, and that is what makes you magical, which makes you also superhuman. But then, that’s when you’re allowed to be seen as something worthy of protection, of love, and of care. And some girls, just by existence, right, are excluded from this category of Black girl magic. We talked about this a little bit in a thread a while ago, on Twitter, we’ll have to bring it back up. And so, when I think about who Black girl magic excludes, I’m thinking about the people who aren’t, who would not be fitting into this normative frame of what it means to be excellent. So it will exclude disabled girls, right? Black girls with chronic illnesses, who choose not to, like, to overwork themselves, to “compensate,” quote-unquote, right, for these disabilities or illnesses. These Black women who are killed by the police, who are killed as a result of intimate partner violence, right? They’re not magical enough just by being, they have to have been someone who lived an extraordinary, respectable life.
[18:03] Alyssa: Mm hmm. Yes, that question of if they didn’t overcome, if they haven’t overcome, if, you know, they didn’t survive…is it because they’re not magical enough? And I mean, I don’t think that was Thompson’s intention at all. Not, not at all. But I just, I think it’s important to be wary and critical of sweeping statements and just think about how they might obscure the kinds of everyday achievements of just living. Of just living as a Black woman, living as a Black girl. And I think that that brings us nicely into our next segment: What We’re Reading. So Brendane, what are we reading today?
[18:41] Brendane: Today, we are reading “Black Girl Ordinary: Flesh, Carcerality, and the Refusal of Ethnography” by Savannah Shange. Savannah Shange is an urban anthropologist who works at the intersections of race, place, sexuality, and the state. She’s an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with research interests in circulated and lived forms of Blackness, ethnographic ethics, and Afropessimism, and also queer of color critique. Her first book, Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in Scan—in San Francisco, ‘cuse me—is amazing, and has already been heralded as a Black feminist anthro classic. So the piece that we’re reading today is an article published in Transforming Anthropology in 2019 that she writes is an ethnography of social death in gentrifying San Francisco. And, whew, girl! Where do we, where do we start?
[18:49] Alyssa: Oh, well, I think that Dr. Shange has a gift, is a gift.
[19:50] Brendane: Like, period!
[19:51] Alyssa: I loved reading this essay. The endnotes made so much of what she was saying accessible. I loved that she’s very much imbricated in not just the Black studies literature, but in Black culture. She, I mean, she’s a Black woman herself. And so you know, she makes these like Biggie, Tupac, Nas references and critiques. And I’m like, “Sis. I stan.” [Laughter] This was fantastic. You know, she wasn’t this kind of, she wasn’t just, like, paying lip service to this kind of stuff. Like she uses AAVE the, you know, Black English or African American Vernacular English, in the essay, like. And so she says that the essay is quote “an attempt to do both [theory and ethnography] at the same damn time.” I was like, “Us too! That’s what we’re doing!”
[20:37] Brendane: We’re tryin’ [laughter].
[20:40] Alyssa: So I think, the other thing was that I think we’re having, like, a really good full circle moment in a way, right? So Shange’s article heavily mobilizes Spillers’s theory of the flesh as a hermeneutic to, quote, “understand Black embodiment in the late liberal US.” A hermeneutic is an explanatory or interpretive word or phrase or framework that serves as a method or theory for interpretation. And so, flesh in the sense, as a, as a hermeneutic, it provides a way for us to kind of interpret or understand or make meaning of Black life in the “afterlife” of slavery. So thinking about Black being as flesh, it takes slavery, quote, “out of time.” So it doesn’t exist as this spectacular event that happened in the past. It operates as a structuring force of life that is ongoing. So the world that we live in now is still structured by the dynamics of slavery. We explored Spillers’s monumental, or ovaric, intervention in our episode “Ain’t I a Woman?” if you want some more information on that. And I say ovaric, because that is what Shange uses instead of seminal. [Laughter] Because seminal has its connections with semen and the masculine.
[21:50] Brendane: Her mind. [Crosstalk] It’s like her mind, her mind! How?! [Laughter] In this article, Shange draws on her ethnographic research at a progressive high school in San Francisco, which she names Robeson High School, to really show us, like, this anti-Black, and I would say anti-Black girl, liberal reality that is the progressive political project. She worked as a teacher at this school while conducting research and over the course of her fieldwork, she worked with Black boys and girls with this diverse public school that began as an effort to redress the harmful impacts of systemic racism and economic exploitation in the city of San Francisco. And she argues in this essay that “the gendered and raced patterns of school discipline” at Robeson will help us, the reader, “apprehend the afterlife of slavery.” So she starts by kind of giving us a read of Black girlhood studies, and one of the things that we want to highlight that’s pertinent for this episode is her read of the Black Girl Ordinary. And she says that the Black Girl Ordinary is the lesser known corollary of Black Girl Magic, which she calls—it’s the government name [laughter], which I thought was cute. And she defines Black Girl Magic as this “circulated, selfied, carefree mode of Black femininity.” So Black Girl Ordinary, as the lesser known name of Black Girl Magic, centers a, quote, “materialist reading of gendered Black self-making,” and refuses the misogynoir that silences the common and quotidian experiences of Black girls in pursuit of this quote, “exceptional” Black girl.
[23:35] Alyssa: So the girl who is 12-years-old and has two degrees and is doing her PhD is the exceptional?
[22:37] Brendane: And is vegan, and I mean—
[23:42] Alyssa: Wrote a cookbook!
[23:43] Brendane: Commits no sins. You know, we embrace that Black girl, we love her too, but we also are thinking about the ordinary, right? And so—
[23:52] Alyssa: Yeah, I mean, we should also say we’re not, we’re not critiquing the Black girl, we’re critiquing the society that uplifts her as the kind of quintessential, like, the quintessential ideal version of what a Black girl should be.
[24:07] Brendane: Right, who adheres to kind of white societal norms of excellence. But even more so because, you know, white people can be mediocre but she’s not allowed to be. But that’s, that’s another talk for another time, um [laughter]. Which, what I love about this Black Girl Ordinary framework, right, is it’s a rejection of the talented tenth logic. It’s this looking at magic, right, this “conjuring,” quote-unquote, is the word that Shange uses, that occurs in Black girls everyday lives. Like the ways that they make life livable and lovable and joyful. And also the ways that life can make them sad, right? And so, what I also love about the emphasis on the ordinary is that it doesn’t elide the varied forms of violence that Black girls experience. This is not just a story of overcoming societal obstacles. It’s an ethnography of Black girl life in this violence, through this violence, but also outside of these violent anti-Black institutions.
[25:11] Alyssa: Mm hmm. So there’s two things that I was gonna say. One is just an example and one is just a clarification for folks who are not in anthropology. Dr. Shange, I believe has a master’s in teaching. So it wasn’t just by virtue of her being an anthropologist at a prestigious university that was like, “Okay, we’ll just let you teach at this school and we’ll let you teach these Black students.” It wasn’t like that; she was a teacher, and so I think it’s just important to distinguish between what anthropology used to be like where it was just these, like, these white men going into these communities. And by virtue of their whiteness, they become experts or they become chief—
[25:49] Brendane: President.
[25:50] Alyssa: Presidents of things [laughter]. So it’s not like that, she does have a degree in teaching. And then just to kind of illustrate black girl ordinary, Shange, she actually says that Cardi B is the quintessential Black Girl Ordinary. Because she just calls herself a regular degular schmegular girl from the Bronx and she resists these respectability politics—hello, do we need to talk about WAP again [laughter]? And also some of these, like, colorist norms. And if you want to know more about that, you can check out our last episode. But she rejects these colorist norms as well that would make, you know, a light-skinned Dominican woman special rather than just regular degular schmegular.
[26:32] Brendane: Ooh, I like, I had thought about that, too as we were thinking about the episode. I was like the interplay between colorism and what makes Black girls magical is something that we can discuss if we have time. We’ll see.
[26:47] Alyssa: Okay, I mean, I noticed that in the thing that we are going to talk about, that I watched today. I noticed that very clearly. But anyhow, Shange draws attention to a liberal double-bind, which is essentially that even in an institution that bills itself as antiracist, whose end goal is liberation, the space is still run through with anti-Blackness and it operates as an extension of the state apparatus. And so she draws on Saidiya Hartman’s book Scenes of Subjection to discuss, quote, “the pedagogy of respectability.” And so to learn more about respectability, we talk about it in episode three “There’s Some Anthros in this House.” The school emphasizes and trains students in this proper spirit and character, right? And that’s, that’s a phrase from Scenes of Subjection. So, there was also a kind of—in slavery, there was an expectation of a particular spirit and character of the enslaved. And so the staff, in their effort to teach respectability, they kind of communicate that Black girlhood is incompatible with these norms of propriety and femininity. And it reinforces the ways that Black people, and especially Black girls, are excluded from personhood. But also of gender and of kinship networks. And so one of the ways that Shange illustrates this Spillersian—guessing on how to say that one, but I like it.
[28:07] Brendane: I love it. I love it.
[28:09] Alyssa: If you love it, I like it. You know, it’s good [laughter]. But the way that she demonstrates this Spillersian ungendering of Black girls is the way that Black girls are equally as likely as Black boys to be highly policed and disciplined in the school. But then as a comparison, Latino boys are twice as likely than Latina girls to be disciplined. So among them, among the Latinx students, gender, or specifically femininity, provides a protective function that Spillers has shown in that essay “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe.” She shows that it’s lost among Black women because they are made equally subject to rape, torture, labor and death.
[28:52] Brendane: Yes, this was such a salient point that really brings together, honestly, so much that we talked about this semester. And also, what gets lost in conversations about the school-to-prison pipeline is this focus on the quote-unquote, “endangered” Black male at the expense of the Black girl, usually. So Kimberlé Crenshaw and Monique Moore have done excellent work on the pushout of Black girls in public schools that is due to this focus on Black male exceptionality that’s coupled with the enforcement of white definitions of femininity in classrooms. And what Shange does here that I think is brilliant, she draws on Hartman’s theory about burdened individuality, which talks about the struggles that, quote-unquote, “emancipated” Black people experience post-slavery, where we have internalized the discipline of slavery, right? We’ve internalized what Hartman says that Shange quotes is “internalized the whip.” So no longer do we need an overseer to kind of enforce this subjugation onto us. We have actually internalized it and enforced it on each other through respectability and through these kinds of norms around gender, in the classroom especially. And so the Black girls in Shange’s ethnography experienced that reality daily: where they are punished for their inability to internalize the whip and to live with these constructs of a quote-unquote, “appropriate feminine behavior.” And they were frequently dismissed from class. And so that frequent displacement was also the reason why eventually, many of them were expelled from the school altogether. Whereas, and she doesn’t really talk about this in the article, but in the book, she touched upon the fact that Black boys in these same classroom spaces were given the freedom to be and, you know, I’m going to use this word “affectively discordant,” right? So they were able to kind of show this defiance, and it was seen as them being able to express themselves and the teachers were like, “Oh, yeah, this is like reparations for slavery because in slavery, black men weren’t able to express themselves.” And so it’s this idea that like, Black boys need a place to be free, and to be themselves, but Black girls need to get with the program and act like, quote-unquote, “young women.”
[31:05] Alyssa: And of course, acting like a young woman means acting in a way that is commensurate with white femininity, which as you know we’ve talked about a lot, we are excluded from that. It is, it is an impossibility. So this is, this was just such a great essay [laughter]. But I found, I found the geographical to be of interest here as well. I mean, you were talking about this placement. But then there’s, you know, there’s also emplacement, like, an idea of the spaces that people occupy within the city, around the city, and then how that reflects or is projected onto who they are and how they’re perceived by particularly teachers, these enforcers, enforcers of the state’s apparatus, right? And so she talks about the Sunnydale Girl. And a teacher talks about how you can “tell a Sunnydale Girl.” Sunnydale is a large San Francisco housing project, and the teacher says that Tarika, who’s a girl from the Sunnydale Housing Project, she says that her story was already written before she even came into the school. And so Shange’s analysis is that Tarika and girls like her are of the landscape. And so because of that emplacement, because of that origination, their futures are limited, therefore closed. They’re unimaginable, and particularly in the view of a liberal teacher. And so I kind of, I was reading this and thinking with Katherine McKittrick’s “Plantation Futures,” and just thinking about the way Sunnydale is described. So it’s called, the nickname is “The Swamp.” But the ideas about what the place is like gets projected onto the people who live and are from there. So the idea is that in order to live and survive in such a quote-unquote, “uncivilized” place, you yourself must be uncivilized. This geographical narrative then informs how people talk about and perceive and think about the people who live there. And so McKittrick explains in that essay, “Plantation Futures,” that that’s what happened in Africa and the “New” World. These lands were newer than Europe’s, they were hot, they were dangerous. They are non-places, they’re unfit for human habitation. So the people who do inhabit them—because they’re simultaneously uninhabited, but inhabited—the people who do live there are subhuman, they’re barbarous, and they’re also dangerous as a result of the land. So it was interesting to think about how the geographical, these narratives of place, they begin to, like, reflect the people.
[33:35] Brendane: Yeah. And I think that that’s telling in discourse. Sociological discourse. I got to get my dig in, the last one for the season, right? [Laughter] We write abo—[laughter] we think about the “urban,” right? And how “urban,” when we talk about urban music or urban etc., stands for the Black, right? And then that itself has its own set of meanings. But what Shange does by pointing us to the urban, to the Black girl, to the Black female body in these spaces is that she tells us that the Black female body constitutes. So [it] makes space but it is also constituted by space. What makes Sunnydale this quote-unquote “bad place,” this unlivable, uninhabitable place, is not only the years and generations of state neglect, that then gets displaced onto the Black people who live there, right? So the place is in disrepair because of the Black people and not because of the state’s anti-Blackness. But also this imagined, and real, presence of these deviant Black women and girls who then make this space uninhabitable through their deviance, but also are shaped by this space to become really, um, they are imagined to be like these Black pre mothers. And so these Black girls are denied childhood, and thus are, like, not allowed to access protected forms of femininity. And Shange tells us, the Black girl affect then points us to the “ghetto.” It points us to the physical space of deviance and of state violence, and also points us to the structural location of the Black girl herself. You know, I’m an affective scholar, quote-unquote, whatever, you know, whatever. And I was reading that and I was like of course. Like, like we lived that. That is our life, like our bodies point to locations and also tell stories about where we are in society, right? As Black women, as former Black girls. Just genius, like, I’m clapping my hands.
[35:50] Alyssa: I was thinking about it, you know, in relation to your work, of course, and just thinking about these affective norms and affective misrecognition that, that plagues these Black girls in the school, right? And I mean, it’s, I shouldn’t say plagues them really, it’s a problem amongst the staff and the teachers that they see attitude, they see, you know, they see a troublemaker, they see a chatterbox. That’s, that was on one of my report cards when I was a kid [laughter].
[36:20] Brendane: Really?
[36:21] Alyssa: Yeah, my mom did not let me forget it. She was so upset that my, that my report card said that. I think I might have been in grade three or four or something.
[36:31] Brendane: Aw. Well—
[36:32] Alyssa: I don’t know, maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t but [laughter].
[36:34] Brendane: I was so sneaky. I was so sneaky with it. Like, I would just pass notes. So you wouldn’t hear me but all my bullying, et cetera, would be on the page [laughter].
[36:48] Alyssa: [Laughter] A writer from day one, too! So those kinds of comments are these, you know, violations of the expectations of femininity. Why is it? Why? Why? Why are we misrecognized in this way?
[37:04] Brendane: I mean, that’s the, that’s the point of the project. If we were to be seen as who we are, the world wouldn’t exist in the way that it does. And so I think we should, we should talk, like, we should talk about why we’re even talking about Black Girl Magic, Black Girl Ordinary. Go ahead and move to our next section. What?
[37:29] Alyssa: What!?
[37:30] Brendane: In the world, like?
[37:31] Alyssa: What in the world!?
[37:33] Brendane: We thought we would bring a lil’ holiday spirit. Even if you do not celebrate the holiday season, we’ll bring it to you today with Jingle Jangle, the hot new movie that all the kids are talking about.
[37:47] Alyssa: All the kids.
[37:48] Brendane: And, if you haven’t watched it [laughter]—all the kids, all the adults, all the moms, all the dads, um, have something to say about Jingle Jangle. And we will have some spoilers, so watch it before you listen or enjoy the spoilers because we’re not going to hold back. Okay? Okay.
[38:07] Alyssa: O-kay [laughter]. First of all: I. love. musicals. [Laughter] I don’t know if you could tell that by looking at me. But I love me a musical. I have seen RENT! three times on stage and twice with part of the original cast. Okay? Okay. I’m just saying. Don’t be jealous. But that’s me.
[38:34] Brendane: So here’s my, here’s my corny joke about that: Would you say that RENT! lives rent-free in your mind?
[38:41] Alyssa: Oh, you’re so corny [laughter]. But yes. It does.
[38:48] Brendane: Oh man, I [sighs] I was excited about posting that joke this whole episode. Okay, I have a confession: I have never seen RENT! the movie all the way through. But I have watched some musical selections from the movie on YouTube multiple times. I love musicals. But when I turn this movie on, I was not expecting this to be one. I think Forrest Whitaker, I didn’t expect for him to sing at all. And my best friend, Destiny, she recommended that we watch this movie together. So we, like, got all queued up, turned the TV on, got my FaceTime in my hand. And we both were like, when people started singing we were like, “Wait, pause. People—it’s a musical?!”
[39:30] Alyssa: Yeah, I didn’t know.
[39:32] Brendane: And it kind of just took it to another level of enjoyment for me. I love Anika Noni Rose. Like she is such a talented gem. And she and the other two Black woman in the movie were the best singers, like period. Everybody else, I was like “Y’all need to take some lessons.” [Laughter] But some of the song lyrics and some of the themes of the songs, I was just like “Mmmm?”
[39:58] Alyssa: I’ll say that I really enjoyed Jingle Jangle with my critical hat off. Okay y’all, I take my hat off and I enjoy everyday things like everyone else. And people who don’t take that hat off, I’m just like, I can only spend so much time with you [laughter].
[40:17] Brendane: Ergo, me [laughter].
[40:20] Alyssa: I mean, I did it to my friend, like, the first time that we hung out. The one who sent us the care packages!
[40:26] Brendane: Mm hmm. Hey!
[40:27] Alyssa: Hey! We had a class together. And we had to do an assignment where we’d go to a park and, you know, write down all this stuff. And so we were kind of hanging out after. Then I was like, “All right, she seems like cool peoples.” But she just kept going into, like, the anthropological analysis and all this stuff, of everything! And I was just like, “Okay, girl, you can chill.” Like, you don’t need to impress me. You don’t need to try to impress me or pretend to be all anthropological all the time. And critical and analytical. I get bored of that after a while [laughter]. Like, we can just be normal. And she was like—
[41:02] Brendane: Yes, let’s be an Aquarius [laughter].
[41:07] Alyssa: She’s a Taurus.
[41:08] Brendane: Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh. When she’s stuck in her way[s], she’s stuck in her ways. Yeah, I have my moments, I kind of go in and out. I know to turn it off when I’m at the club. Oh, wait, when I was at the club, because we are living in new times and the club is not a place that I currently go to. But watching movies, it’s hard for me, too. But I do enjoy bad Black movies. Alyssa and I have talked about this before. Like, I literally have like— I call them BBMs, which if that means something else not good, please let me know because I really be saying BBM all the time. Um [laughter] and yeah, I call them BBMs. And like, if you follow me on Instagram, and I’m watching one, sometimes I’ll show you highlights of them and have, like, reactions. And it’s like my favorite genre of movie. Because—I don’t know, there’s a lot that goes into BBMs. And so this was also a movie where I entered in thinking like, “Oh, this is Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad. Like, this is, uh, not a BBM.” [Laughter] But then it evolved into one, which made it enjoyable, but also made me, like, question mark throughout several points of it, for sure.
[42:26] Alyssa: Well, I only question marked because you made me question mark. Otherwise, I think I would have just [laughter] I think I would have just truly enjoyed it. It had all the trappings, cliches, and archetypes of a good Christmas movie for kids. It had, you know, a Scrooge-Daddy Warbucks figure, an overly enthusiastic little boy. You know, there was a Grinch/the villain. And then there was the warm yet enigmatic grandmother type. You know, she had a little something, a little secret up her sleeve. And then of course, you know, the bright and cheerful little girl [laughter]. So I was like “All right, all right, cool.” But then the first song that really kind of perked up my critical ear was the main character[‘s]. She’s the young Journey. She goes to visit her, you know, Scroogie grandfather Jeronicus in Cobbleton. He’s, you know, he was once the greatest inventor in the land whose designs were stolen by an, of course, light-skinned inventor who became upset that he was being overlooked by Jeronicus. And so Journey is also a gifted inventor. And so she sings a song that says “the square root of impossible is me.” I enjoyed the tune but I was like, “This has #BlackGirlMagic written all over it.”
[43:43] Brendane: Literally! Which is why I was like “Oh yeah, we’re talking about Black Girl Magic. We need to talk about Jingle Jangle this holiday season.” So everything lined up, y’all. For that part—yeah, there’s a lot of things to say. Light-skinned villain who’s—essentially his feelings were hurt. And that turned him into a villain. So then, you know, there is the like, light-skinned sensitivity trope there. On top of the Black girl magic, [there’s] the light-skinned Black girl, who saves her darker skinned grandfather. So there’s a lot of colorism popping off here. But on top of that, for sure, was the Black Girl Magic in “the square root of impossible is me.” And I’m going to be, I’m going to be that contrarian Gemini, I’m going to be that person that instigates and stirs the pot by saying that I was so surprised by some of the people that I saw, who are like Black feminist thinkers, who loved this movie. Because I was like, “Am I just—am I—Is my thinking hat a little too tight? Like, is it just too tight on my forehead?” Like, I had ambivalent feelings about the song [“Square Root of Impossible”] because it’s good and it’s like not so good, right? Like yes, like Black girls, Black women, Black femmes, like, we be making nothing out of something all the time. Like, you think that’s impossible? Wait, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna show you how possible it is. On the other flip side of that coin I ask, like, what would the world look like if we did not constantly ask for Black women, girls, and femmes to make something out of nothing, right? Like, what would the world look like if that was not our responsibility? And so I think one of the main critiques I have of this Black girl magic discourse that’s separated from CaShawn Thompson’s original intent is that it places so much responsibility on Black girls to be to be excellent while Black men and boys are still centered and then they are still seen as the only avenue through which Black uplift is possible. So like, Black girls become the fodder for Black uplift. You know, we sacrifice their minds, their bodies, their talents, etc., to kinda rescue Black communities and Black families. But racial uplift is still only achieved through the elevation of a Black man.
[46:00] Alyssa: Mmm. Then the irony of that, as well, is that Black women have always been construed as the downfall of the Black community, of the Black family.
[46:09] Brendane: Right.
[46:10] Alyssa: I am asterisking The Moynihan Report.
[46:13] Brendane: Right, like yes, The Moynihan Report sits at the center, or really kind of brings into concentration a lot of these discourses about Black mothers and Black women especially. And—
[46:25] Alyssa: And our, and our pathologization as well.
[46:27] Brendane: Yes. Oh my gosh. So, if you haven’t read The Moynihan Report, I mean, don’t read it, but read the critiques of it [laughter]. And you’ll see what we’re, what we’re saying. This movie, for me, was an example of that dynamic. We have Journey, this brilliant, beautiful, excellent Black girl who still somehow manages to be a mule. For her grandfather! Like she fixes “ET” toy, um—
[46:55] Alyssa: The robot, Buddy 3000! [Laughter]
[46:57] Brendane: Who, like, you know, has special abilities. You know, [she] saves the grandfather financially, teaches him how to love again. And it’s like, “But ain’t she like 10, 11?” I was like, “Why does she have to do all of this?” But also, why did her Mama send her!? I—Anyway, there’s some plot things that I just have many questions about. But it’s like, “Why is she tasked with that responsibility?” The movie, you know, the grandfather becomes—you know it’s a feel good ending. He has his reputation back, he is selling toys again, and he stops being rude to her. But I was like, “I’m supposed to be happy about what this child went through to bring this man here?” But I also do think, on the other side of that, my analytical side is like oh, like, this is interesting to look into the psyche of Black men because a Black man did write this movie. And it’s like, oh, this is what y’all see Black girls doing as like movie devices, I guess.
[47:55] Alyssa: Mm. Yeah, I’m trying to think of another movie where that was the case.
[47:58] Brendane: Black Box? I don’t know if you’ve seen that one but that’s another movie where, like, the Black girl is brilliant, smart. She actually kind of looks like the girl in this movie. Maybe it’s the same—anyway. I don’t know, I’ll look that up. But like, a smart savior kind of thing. But literally just to help this grown Black man exist and be. It’s so, it’s a weird genre of Black Girl Magic.
[48:24] Alyssa: Every time I think about these kinds of movies, I think about a little light-skinned, maybe mixed race girl with, you know, her hair all out.
[48:33] Brendane: But that’s like the type of girl that’s able to do the saving. Like that’s the magical girl, right? Like the light-skinned biracial girl is the magical Black girl because we don’t really see or experience Anika Noni Rose’s character as a child. Like she’s there but she doesn’t say anything, and—oh! What we do see—
[48:52] Alyssa: But actually, but actually, as a child, she’s light-skinned.
[48:55] Brendane: Which is why I was like “we don’t see her.” So at the time, she’s light-skinned, which is like, how? And then—but then also once you see her father’s interactions with her, she keeps bringing him these, like, inventions and him, like, not really entertaining her. I don’t know if you caught that. Like she’d be like, “Oh Dad, let’s do this.” And he’s like, “Oh no, I gotta work” or like, “Oh no, I got to do this” or “I’m almost there with this that and the third. But then it’s like her invention is what saves him.
[49:23] Alyssa: Really?
[49:23] Brendane: Yeah like the Buddy—
[49:25] Alyssa: She made the Buddy 3000?
[49:26] Brendane: Yeah, that was hers because all of his inventions were stolen. All of—that book of his was stolen. It was her invention that saves him.
[49:34] Alyssa: Trife.
[49:34] Brendane: And he’s like trying to rebuild the invention to, like, reconnect with her supposedly, I guess. But it’s like—
[49:41] Alyssa: Ohhh.
[49:41] Brendane: Yeah, that’s why it’s confusing to me.
[49:44] Alyssa: Interesting.
[49:45] Brendane: It’s confusing to me about why so many Black feminist people were like, “This is a great movie.” And I was like, “Isn’t…”—Anyway. It’s a good holiday movie though. I think it definitely brings the holidays in. Has a mystical, magical thing about it.
[50:00] Alyssa: So the movie has the mystical, magical thing. It has the Black Girl Magic thing, which is essentially Journey kind of leaning into her love of inventing, despite all of the people— and by all the people it really is her grandfather Jeronicus—telling her no. But she’s never deterred. She’s always larger than life. And she never makes herself small to fit in, which is in some ways ironic, because that’s what’s expected of Black girls. I guess, unless they look like her.
[50:29] Brendane: I love that though. I love that she was just like, “Yeah, I mean, you gon say these things that could be borderline verbally abusive to me, but I will do what I need to do! Imma have fun, I’m gon play with my friends, I’m gonna invent, I’m gonna be myself.” And [she] really validated herself and her own abilities. But I think it also speaks her mother’s love for her, which is, you know. I’m like “yes.” Anika Noni Rose, though you made some strange decision sending your daughter to this man she doesn’t know, I appreciate that you built her, like you helped her shape her sense of self-worth. And I think that is a lesson too. Like, you know, as Black women, as former Black girls, like, so much of our lives are shaped around what men think of us. You know, cishet, patriarchal understanding of the world and how we should shape our lives. But Journey was like, “Fuck this nigga, like, Imma be my brilliant self, anyway!” Like and while she still loved him and cared for him and wanted to be a part of his life, she was still doing her thing. I, on the other hand, be Iike let them, let them waste away. Like, y’all wanna be mad ‘cuz we over here shinin’. We over here with our—did you see the sparkly wig thing? I love it, the sparkly wigs and—
[51:42] Alyssa: The little charms that she had in her…I love the Mohawk. You know I’ve worn that style multiple times. So the Mohawk that she had—
[51:51] Brendane: And you do it so well. That’s your other superpower!
[51:54] Alyssa: Natural hair styles?
[51:55] Brendane: Yes! And you can do it all yourself. Meanwhile, I’m like, I washed my hair and that’s it. But that’s because I’m lazy [laughter].
[52:05] Alyssa: So I read a review of the movie. And it said that films that feature Black girls, they often also feature their adultification. So a situation where they’re forced to mature quickly as a result of the plot and Eve’s Bayou as an example. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie.
[52:22] Brendane: Mm hmm.
[52:22] Alyssa: I used to watch it a lot as a kid, which I really shouldn’t have been doing [laughter].
[52:25] Brendane: Yeah, what!? Oh no, that’s like—we used to be watching The Color Purple as a child and that was not…
[52:31] Alyssa: Oh, we, well, we had both of those on VHS and I watched both of them. VHS y’all. But they say that, you know, this is a film where we get to see a carefree Black girl. You know, a girl who’s cheerful and happy and fully herself, kind of like Cindy Lou Who in [How] The Grinch Stole Christmas. And so, you know, what do you think? Would you agree with that? Or—
[52:54] Brendane: Uh haaa!
[52:57] Alyssa: I’ll take that as a “no” [laughter].
[53:00] Brendane: Um. Lemme do what I have seen other people do. I will put my glasses here. And I say: Carefree where? Carefree when? Um, what? Sis had to raise her grandfather, who I saw, like, some of the things they exchanged as emotionally abusive. Other people might disagree with me. But she was responsible for keeping that business afloat. Like she was saving people out here. I don’t—where was the lack of cares? Where was it? She was feedin’ herself. She was taking care of herself. Uh, maybe the carefree is because she was singing? Maybe, um…
[53:39] Alyssa: They shared one egg for dinner.
[53:41] Brendane: Yo.
[53:41] Alyssa: They shared it, I was dead. I was like…
[53:44] Brendane: The egg for dinner. That’s—
[53:47] Alyssa: One egg for dinner.
[53:49] Brendane: That’s approaching Tyler Perry Land. Oh my gosh.
[53:54] Alyssa: [Laughter] Lordy. Um, yeah, I think that the magic, and by magic I mean the resilience of Journey and not, you know, the enchanted magic. Which I, which I also loved. I thought that the, you know, the images and the costumes and everything, I thought they were fantastic.
[54:13] Brendane: That was on point! Like, I was like, you know what? Costume, budget, you ain’t gotta worry about somebody wig shifting mid-scene like in other movies.
[54:21] Alyssa: Listen! I thought the hairstyles were fantastic. Anyways.
[54:24] Brendane: It was beautiful, like, like beautiful gowns [laughter].
[54:28] Alyssa: Aesthetically, it was lovely.
[54:30] Brendane: Beautiful gowns [laughter].
[54:32] Alyssa: But I think that the magic of her Black Girl Magic, it happens through—it does still happen through a certain level of adultification, where she’s saving the toy shop. She’s bringing joy back to her grandfather’s life. Like, all of these things are things that she shouldn’t be responsible for. And yet she is. So even though they’re like, “Oh, she’s carefree ‘cuz she’s singing and she’s happy and she’s completely herself and she doesn’t shrink herself.” It’s like there’s still a level of her being expected to do things that someone her age shouldn’t have to do.
[55:05] Brendane: Yeah. And I wrote this in a paper a while back. I was like, what is interesting to me about the radical imagination, particularly for Black girls, is that we can imagine Black girls being free, we can imagine them being loved. But we can’t imagine it outside of a context of violence. We can’t imagine it. And I was like, thinking about Angela Davis, one of her speeches, she talks about like the church bombing [16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963] that happened. And with the four girls who died and the fifth survivor. And she talks about, like, what if those four girls had lived and had gone on to be leaders of a movement? And it’s like, even an imagination about Black girls and living, right, there’s still this—but you’re living with the purpose to end violence or you’re living with the purpose or like you’re living through a certain type of violence. And so it takes an extra level of imagination, I think, to think about this, like, carefree, un-adultified Black girl, it takes an extra level. Even in—there’s another kind of Black girl magic movie with Oprah in it. Oh my gosh…A Wrinkle in Time! Even A Wrinkle in Time, Black Girl Magic still though, this kind of, like, weird child neglect storyline, like this violence. So even imagining this girl who’s brilliant, who’s smart, who’s got all of this and still a biracial, big-haired light-skinned girl, right? Even in that imagination she still exists within the realm of some type of, like, violence. And I think that’s really interesting to me. And I don’t know the Black Boy Special movies out there. I don’t think they ring or have like—I don’t think they ring the same register. Like I don’t think they have that kind of—I’m like—But I’m trying to think of a Black Boy Special movie. Um, Like Mike was what came to mind [laughter].
[57:02] Alyssa: Wait, Like Mike. Oh, no, that was what’s-his-name? Lil’ Bow Wow.
[57:04] Brendane: Bow Wow, yes! Bow Wow. But his magical thing was not his mind, it was his body. But that’s, I guess that’s another, that’s for the masculinity people to deal with [laughter].Yeah, I’m just like…
[57:19] Alyssa: I think, yeah, I think that’s a really fantastic point, and I think that we can let people really ponder with that one.
[57:26] Brendane: Sit with that.
And then just say, the last thing I have to say about this movie is: not Forest Whitaker dancing to Afrobeats! [Laughter] I was like, “Okay, they’re doing a little Afrobeat tune in this thing.” And then Forest Whitaker is trying to—I was just like “not Forest Whitaker dancing.” Oh my goodn—is he trying to rebrand right now?
You know, after the Blek Pentha [Black Panther (2018)], you—I know you didn’t think that he was not ’bout to throw us some Afrobeats after Blek Pentha. That’s like— Oh my goodness. I loved it. I loved the dancing. I thought they chose, with the exception of Forrest Whitaker, I thought they chose people with great voices.
[58:11] Alyssa: [Laughter] See, I thought you said he gave the performance of his life.
[58:14] Brendane: To Afrobeats? I thought that was top tier [laughter]. Miss Johnson, though, the postal woman?
[58:23] Alyssa: Okay, that was sooooo cringy!
[58:26] Brendane: So cringy, so just…I was really confused about what point they were trying to make about her character. Maybe, I was like, “Maybe they’re trying to say that Ronnie, Jeronicus, Jerry still got it. You know, maybe that’s what they’re going with. But she, she’s beautiful. She’s talented. I honestly wish that she—she deserved a real love interest storyline in my opinion. Or like a validating love interest storyline. We’re both like dancing right now [laughter]. Just for those of you who don’t know.
[58:55] Alyssa: Yeah, not a little peck on the cheek. At the end. Under a mistletoe. I saw her as almost an amalgamation of all archetypes of Black women. So she had, you know she has the body that would make people kind of mammify her. But then she had this kind of Jezebel vibe where she was always really chasing after and trying to seduce Jerry/Jeronicus. Just a little bit to the beat [laughter]. And I just agree. I think that she deserved more and better. And I was just disappointed that, you know, the plus-size dark-skinned Black woman was basically the brunt of a lot of the jokes. Like her interest in Jerry was essentially comic relief and I think that we see that a lot with plus-size black woman. Like that’s often their role in films.
[59:52] Brendane: Right.
[59:53] Alyssa: Like “Nobody could ever be interested in you.” So it’s just a joke that you would ever—it’s meant to be comedy that you would ever assume that somebody would or that you would try to get a man or something, right? And if they, and if there is an interested in them romantically, it’s usually by someone who is, you know, a quote-unquote, like “chubby chaser.” Or, you know, they have a, they have some kind of a fetish or—and they comment on like their size, on their weight.
[1:00:20] Brendane: Yeah, it’s a weird…it’s a weird dynamic. And I think what Destiny and I decided once we closed the movie out was that the writer of this movie was trying to really pick up on a lot of different themes throughout the generations of popular movie and TV themes. And so we kind of see an amalgamation of that throughout. Another character, though, that I think speaks to what you were just saying was like Monique’s character in The Parkers. It’s kind of this like—Monique is a beautiful, beautiful woman who’s trying to be with this professor. And, you know, it’s seen as like an unequal pairing or whatever. And yeah, and so she—like pushy kind of woman. So I, that’s what I, when I saw Miss Johnson I was like, “Oh, is he trying to like draw on Nikki Parker here? And if so, like, why? Like we—
[1:01:17] Alyssa: ‘Cuz he is called professor, people call him Professor or Doctor.
[1:01:20] Brendane: Yeah, I didn’t notice.
[1:01:23] Alyssa: There’s—I feel like every movie has that. Or not, not every movie, but a lot of movies particularly, you might call them BBMs, I call them FUBU movies: the “For Us, By Us” movies. But there’s often that, the quote-unquote, you know, “fat Black friend” who’s there for comic relief. Yes, I think that the fat Black friend is kind of, is a trope that is often used for comic relief, particularly in Black movies and in TV shows. I think, you know, you saw it in Moesha. Probably Moesha. Yvonne in the TV show Girlfriends. She wasn’t really a friend, but she—and she wasn’t fat either but—you know what, I’m gonna take that part out.
[1:02:00] Brendane: But then, the body standards were different though. 2000s? Different body standards. So like people who’d be written as “thick” or even “normal” size now were, were written as fat characters. In the early 2000s—
[01:02:15] Alyssa: Yes, so Yvonne was written as a fat character! Because…so I remember thinking of Joan, who’s played by Tracee Ellis Ross, as thick. Like I thought of her as someone who was like a thick woman. And I’m watching it now and I’m like she is thin. Like she’s a very slim girl. Okay, she had like a, you know, she had a curvy behind that got her the half on the five-and-a-half rating by her boyfriend, Ellis. Terrible man.
[01:02:42] Brendane: Ooooooh my God [laughter].
[1:02:43] Alyssa: But I do remember reading her more ethnic and reading Yvonne as fat. And so it was just, I—the reason I was like, actually, I’m gonna take that out was because when I watched it again, I was like, “Oh, she wasn’t.” Like all—everyone who was on that show was slim.
[1:02:56] Brendane: Yeah. Because even The Parkers, yes, Mo’Nique was a fat Black woman. And she talks about—and that was like part of her, of her monumental, like, presence in this industry, was to be unapologetically fat. But Kim, like, her daughter, right? Who was actually not fat, she’s just normal size. But she was bigger than Brandy in Moesha so she was the, like, fat/dumb friend character, right? And so yeah, fatphobia, I feel like that is something that we, we’ve talked about it a bit. So we might have to come back to it in an episode on body image, which is deeply tied to black woman’s bodies, for sure. That ties our bodies.
[1:03:40] Alyssa: But, whew, okay, we’re getting way off topic.
[1:03:42] Brendane: I know [laughter].
[1:03:43] Alyssa: So to bring it all back, I think another place where we saw Black Girl Magic in action was the election. So you look at articles now, they all talk about how Black women—well, not all of them—but they talk about how Black woman “saved” the Democrats, “saved” democracy. Again.
[1:04:01] Brendane: Period.
[1:04:02] Alyssa: And it’s like that every single election. So according to exit polls, 91% of Black women voted Democrat. In the 2016 election, 94% of Black women voted for Hillary. So we, we outchea—well, I mean, not “we” ‘cuz—I’m gonna say “we,” I’m gonna say “you.” I don’t know because I’m not a Black American woman [laughter]. But when I say “we,” I mean Black woman, but I think that the other thing that we saw is that, like, Black women were working to ensure that voters could vote, that people could vote. They were the ones at polling stations manning the—”manning” the polling stations. They were the ones counting votes and so they’re literally on the front lines in the face of voter suppression, voter intimidation. So it’s not just that Black woman will show up to vote. We also get others to the polling station. So, sure. Black woman saved America. But why y’all gotta keep making us do it?!
[1:04:56] Brendane: PERIOD, oh my gosh, like, ugh, God. Save yourselves.
[1:05:01] Alyssa: So, Black woman saved America but then who’s gonna save us when Black women are disproportionately evicted from homes, five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women? It’s just further evidence that Black women are the mules of the world. We show up, we take care of things. It’s all done without thanks, gratitude, or recognition. And so I just think it’s funny how the front lines are literally behind the scenes. It’s like we’re doing all of this work behind the scenes, that actually is some of the most important work that’s being done, and then getting no recognition for it. And then it’s like, “Okay, what’s gonna happen in the next election?” White women are going to be forgiven for the 74%—I’m making that number up. I don’t remember how much it was.
[1:05:02] Brendane: It’s like 50%, it’s like more than half of y’all.
[1:05:40] Alyssa: For the 50[%] who voted for Trump, they’re going to be forgiven. The Democrats are going to be like, “Please come back to our side. Let’s—We want you back. What can we do for you?” And it’s impossible to win them over because they’re invested in keeping their brothers, fathers, sons, husbands in power and then they’re just gonna simply expect and count on the loyalty of Black woman to be magic.
[1:06:09] Brendane: Literally.
[1:06:10] Alyssa: We magically helped them win the election again.
[1:06:12] Brendane: Literally. But then as soon as, you know, things are said and done, ignore our needs and demands or tell us that we’re asking for too much. It’s disappointing and I say Black girls are magic. We do magical things. We live magical lives. We make something out of nothing all the time, pointblank period. And I look forward to a world in which we are allowed to turn all that magic inward to ourselves. Like my magic don’t have to be a spelI that I gotta put on you to make you act right and do right by me. Imma do right by myself and you can get with the program or you can stay at home. That’s how I’m living my life now. I invite other people to join me when you can.
[1:06:54] Alyssa: See what I mean: always the right thing to say superpower. I feel good, I feel inspired. I’m just like damn.
[1:07:01] Brendane: Join me on the other side of “fuck this shit” [laughter].
[1:07:05] Alyssa: All right, that is it. You see we just keep wanting to talk. I just keep wanting to go on but we must end our final episode. So, thank you all so much for listening today and throughout the semester. It has been a joy getting to do this with you Brendane and also chatting with y’all, the listeners, in, you know, in our various forums. And we will be back in February with a new season, new topics, hopefully some of them suggested by you.
[1:07:34] Brendane: Woo, hot fire. Pow pow pow. This has, like, literally been the highlight of mine 2020. It’s not a lot of work but like I feel so good. [MUSIC] And thank you Alyssa for just your brilliance and your amazingness, like this is [feigns tearing up]. Whew child, okay, I actually am ’bout to cry lemme—
[1:07:54] Alyssa: No!
[1:07:55] Brendane: My Pisces moon is popping up. Um, but before we go, we have one last surprise for you. Thanks for listening so far. If you add the hashtag #ReadingWithZD to your comments on Instagram, you can get an extra entry in our book giveaway.
[1:08:12] Alyssa: Heeey. See, see what we do for y’all? Those of you committed listeners who get right to the end. But anyways, while we’re on break, we’ll still be on social media. So feel free to connect with us on Instagram at @zorasdaughters and Twitter @zoras_daughters. You know, just slide into the DMs. Send us a little holiday gift, a little New Years “wassup”, you know. Whatever, whatever is in your heart, whatever gets put on your heart and your minds. Just shout us out.
[1:08:40] Brendane: Shout us out. And thank you. Thank you so much for a wonderful semester in the year that has been 2020. Remember, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Bye!
[1:08:51] Alyssa: Bye!
[END OF RECORDING]