Karen Attiah Sparks Debate over Term ‘Black Girl Magic’ in Israel-Hamas War

by Xara Aziz
National Association of Black Journalists

A recent CNN interview with Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah has begun a debate online about the role Black women have played in the Israel-Hamas war.

October 7, 2023 was a day that rocked the globe when Hamas gunmen launched an attack against Israel, leading to armed conflict between the two territories. And according to Attiah, Black women have played a key role in “both enforcing and softening the appearance of America’s complicity in the conflict,” writes Ann Brown for The Moguldom.

In one example, Attiah referred to Vice President Kamala Harris, who made headlines while delivering remarks on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama earlier this month. According to Attiah, Harris acknowledged the anguish the people of Palestine were facing but failed to scrutinize Israel’s role in their suffering. Instead, she called for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid, which some perceived “as a failure to address the root causes of the crisis.”

She further raised the case of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman who faced criticism for not making calls for a cease-fire resolution. Some diplomatic pundits say that her actions undercut actions to hold Israel accountable for its activities in Gaza, thus perpetuating America’s complicity in the conflict.

“Attiah’s commentary raises questions about the intersection of race, gender, and foreign policy, particularly as it pertains to the role of Black women in positions of power,” Brown writes. “While Harris and Thomas-Greenfield may be seen as symbols of progress and representation, their actions in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict have reignited debates about America’s role as a global superpower and its responsibilities in promoting peace and justice.”

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Attiah wrote “The death and deprivation in Gaza are caused by the actions of specific people acting through systems of power. Black people have known this for centuries, forced to survive and resist a machine that was scared of, and actively suppressed, their economic, social and political autonomy. Beatdowns, lynchings and massacres of Black people were systematic and deliberate weapons of white supremacy, not inexplicable storms of random ‘chaos.”

She continued, “Harris’s speech was limpness masquerading as strength. The ‘humanitarian airdrops’ she promoted have been roundly criticized as ineffective and pathetically insufficient. What’s more, they are signs of U.S. weakness, underscoring the fact that President Biden’s team won’t leverage weapons transfers to force Israel’s cooperation. Or if she was not the face of Biden’s weakness, then she was the face of continued U.S. cruelty toward Palestinians — with a spoonful of #BlackGirlMagic to make the poison go down a little easier.”

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