The Ridiculous Discussion Surrounding Gymnast Gabby Douglas' Hair
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I love black people. They’re very close to my heart. But my love for them also allows me to see and speak on the areas in which we need much improvement. One of those areas has become painfully apparent to me over the past couple of days, in the rise and relevance of Olympian, Gabrielle Douglas and the subsequent discussion about the tidiness of her hair.
The nation has always placed a great deal of emphasis on gymnastics in the Summer Olympics. And this year, black America also took particular pride in the fact that one of the stars of the U.S. Olympic team was a 16 year old, adorable black girl from Virginia. You might have missed it but Gabrielle, or Gabby, has a fascinating back story behind her 10 year professional gymnastic career.
It was her older sister that suggested her mother enroll her in gymnastics, and from there the road has been paved with sacrifices, struggles and most recently success. Just two years ago, Gabby moved 3,000 miles away from her family and in with a host family in Iowa so she could train with former gymnastic great, coach Liang Chow, the same man that trained fellow U.S. gymnast, Shawn Johnson. No doubt the move was taxing and Gabby’s mother said, there was a time when Gabby wanted to quit. But her mom encouraged her to fight for her dream and she decided to persevere.
Obviously, she made the right decision. Gabby went on to not only qualify for the Olympics, she earned a spot on the individual all around and afterward, she helped her team secure a gold medal. The first gold medal a U.S. gymnastics team has received in 16 years.
People across the nation celebrated this victory for the U.S., some claiming that they shed tears watching the U.S. perform. Even President Obama personally congratulated each of the girls, saying, “Michelle and I have watched and decided, of all the Olympians, you guys amaze us the most.”
People have said some great things about Gabby’s accomplishments. But I’ve been especially impressed with what she’s had to say about herself. In every interview, she talks about how she believed in herself, how she encouraged herself and how God helped her get to this place.
But apparently, all of this is not enough for some people. Despite her immense accomplishments, both mental, emotional, and athletic some people, mostly black women, are finding fault with Gabby’s hair of all things. And these people have taken to Twitter to express their grievances. A part of me doesn’t want to share their comments with you because I don’t want to give them any further shine, but hopefully, seeing these comments in black and white will cause someone else to think before they tweet.
Another person had the audacity to say that Gabby needed to “represent.” Without being a hypocrite and calling these people out of their names, I’ll just say all of these…twitter thugs are simple. Simple for focusing on something as trivial as hair, simple for talking about a 16 year old girl, and simple for not understanding that Gabbyis representing for us at one of the highest levels. But instead of celebrating her, we, black people, are taking this opportunity to talk about that state of her hair. The girl is literally soaring through the air, doing things with her body we can’t even fathom and folks on Twitter are wondering about the amount of gel she’s used. It’s petty and it further perpetuates the notion that black women place the appearance of our hair over, maintaining physical fitness and in Gabby’s case, reaching a dream. If you ask me, Gabby’s hair was slicked back, just like her teammates’ hair was slicked back. She had clips in her hair, like her teammates had clips in their hair. It looked fine, especially for a girl who was completing Olympic level gymnastics on a world stage. You think she might have been sweating a lil bit? And even if her hair didn’t “look good,” what would inspire someone to come at an under aged child, who also happens to be on Twitter? If you must clown a child, do so in the privacy of your home so you don’t shame yourself as Gabby brings honor to our country.
One of the things I appreciate most about black people is our ability to express ourselves, vividly and candidly. But I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes…a lot of times, you just can’t please us. We’ll always find fault with someone, particularly another black person, in a position of prominence. Crabs in a barrel. The fact that Gabby, an adorable 16 year old, God-fearing Olympian, can’t escape the unprovoked attacks from “grown” people proves just how much growing up [some] black people have yet to do.