Serena's Magic

 photo serenababy.jpg
by Lwando Xaso

Beauty is fair, straight, refined, slight and dainty. Beauty is polite, non-threatening and amenable. What beauty is not, I am told, is me. This definition of beauty is manufactured ,parceled, sold and internalized by its victims. This message is commercialized for profit and by design it thrives on the destruction of women who are forced to chase a standard that is impossible to meet but will spend themselves to attain. For a time I chased it too not realizing that my autonomy and right to self- determination were under siege.

I used to stand in front of the mirror in judgement of my body. I stared back at myself and all the things I could never be and desperately wished I was because I imagined life would be easier. I am a black girl, a dark, tall black girl with a pronounced butt and hips which I have hated since their arrival 23 years ago.
A girl’s body is highly contested ground and the site of a struggle for domination. Insecure women are the easiest to dominate and to exploit. Because the standard of beauty is imported from the west, guess who is dominated and exploited the most? Black women. Women like myself whose hair is not “good”, whose eyes are not light brown, whose skin is not caramel and whose hips will never be narrow. Black women who feel invisible because the object of the hero’s affection never looks like them. Black women who have grown accustomed to not being seen and so they assume their place at the back of the room because the spotlight was never meant for them. Black women who desperately wonder if their names will ever called, if they will ever be picked.

The forces that want to pacify Black women by denying their beauty are threatened by the magic of a Black woman in full possession of herself. Serena Williams on the cover of Vanity Fair in all her Black, pregnant, naked glory is the epitome of magic.

A magic that has liberated legions of Black women. A magic that has called upon Black women to assume their rightful places at the center of the room with the spotlight shining from within rather than from above. It is a magic that neither seeks or needs permission to define itself for itself. It is a magic that has told us in unequivocal terms that we are enough. A magic that has told us that only we can own ourselves and no one else. It is a magic that is unapologetic for its presence and form. A magic that has demanded and dared us all to make an unconditional pact to love ourselves as we are at this very moment.
We are magic because despite the war that has been waged against us, we are still here and we dare to shine. Serena, in just being herself, has reclaimed what beauty means and ignited a revolution. This Black woman has turned the world on its head and now we live on our terms.

Lwando Xaso is an attorney fron Johannesburg, South Africa.

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