Harebrained Criticism of Gabby Douglas’ Hair: The Remnants of Poor Self-Image
Watching the all-around competition last night was a bit anticlimactic, as I had already known that Gabby Douglas had captured the Gold. Yet, I still went to sleep happy for her, happy for her family, happy for Black people and happy for our Country. However, I woke up this morning and found the Twitter and Facebook world abuzz with discussions about Gabby Douglas’ hair…not about her accomplishment. And, couldn’t help but lament for our Country and the remnants of poor self-image that form part of the residue of racism.
The article in the Daily Beast records Latisha Jenkins of Detroit as saying, “I love how she’s doing her thing and winning. But I just hate the way her hair looks with all those pins and gel. I wish someone could have helped her make it look better since she’s being seen all over the world. She representing for black women everywhere.’’
Really?! Now I’m not singling Ms. Jenkins out, yet she allowed herself to be quoted with this statement. But clearly, that this Skool Daze-esque discussion on “Good or Bad Hair” is indicative of the harebrained criticism of Gabby Douglas’ hair and the remnants of poor self-image that define and/or malign conceptions of Black Beauty…not just for Ms. Jenkins, not just for Black women, not just for Black people…but for our American Society. Truly, this is lamentable.
This harebrained criticism of Gabby Douglas’ hair…ignoring her tremendous accomplishment highlights how far we as a people (Black American and American, indeed African Descendant and Western) have yet to come before we can celebrate the victory of an egalitarian Society. If we had indeed “arrived,” we would be able to be proud that an American teen stood in the arena of Nations and came out on top – for herself and her Country. If we had even come close to “arriving,” we would at least be able to celebrate that a Black teen was the one who was able to bring the Gold home to her Country. Yet, we are so far off that we cannot even meet that standard. Rather, we are lost in debates about her “Good or Bad Hair,” what can be drummed up regarding her father, and whether or not we like her nickname: “the Flying Squirrel.” It seems that the fact that Gabby Douglas has just won Gold is all but lost.
The poor self-image displayed hinges upon the comments of Ms. Jenkins: “She representing for black women everywhere.” Some would debate whether or not it’s fair that a sixteen year old Black girl must represent her race – even in 2012. Yet, before we can even get there, I am compelled to ask: If Gabby Douglas is indeed representing Black women everywhere, why is it that how she looks is of greater importance than what she has accomplished?
As with most situations: it seems as if we are our own worst enemy. For, this debate is driven by Black women. I doubt there were many (if any) men who saw Gabby Douglas perform and win, then turn to their “neighbor” and said: “Neighbor…oh neighbor! Would someone comb that girl’s hair!” I could be wrong…but I doubt many men were drawn to that.
I cry for my sisters often. I wish the Lord would lift the remnants of poor self-image, heaped upon Black women by racism and sexism. I wish Black women could (and would) feel valued for what they do, rather than how they look while doing it.
If we are truly to arrive as a people and as a Society, we must do the work to overcome the remnants of poor self-image that we’ve inflicted upon each other and that we’ve assumed for ourselves, so that we might move past the harebrained criticisms over things such as Gabby Douglas’ hair and other issues that distract us from our greatness.
How can we do this? How can we free ourselves from this burden? How can we lift this burden from each other? I’d love to hear from you…