Breaking binaries: #BlackGirlMagic and the Black ratchet imagination

Toliver, S. R.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education

1 Abstract: CaShawn Thompson’s hashtag, #BlackGirlMagic, has transformed into a movement over the past five years. The hashtag focuses on celebrating the beauty, influence, and strength of Black women and girls. However, Thompson’s term sits in a space of tension, where contradictory interpretations create boundaries around what Black girl celebration means as well as who gets to celebrate Black girl magic, specifically when it comes to girls without a celebrity status and girls who are considered hood or ratchet. In this paper, the author contends that the tension between respectability and ratchetness must be further explored, as it is an essential component in discussions of Black girl identities. To do this, the Afrofuturist young adult literature of Nnedi Okorafor is analyzed using a conceptual framework that highlights the Black Ratchet Imagination and its aversion to respectability politics and the ways in which Afrofuturism challenges notions of respectability in terms of traditional Black literary cultural production. Findings suggest that, although each character, like real Black girls, exhibits traits of respectability, they also depict traits of ratchetness. Thus, the author calls for all literacy stakeholders to dissolve preconceived binaries and conceptualize ratchetness as another celebratory space of agency and Black Girl Magic.