FOX Sports Exclusive
The root of Gabby's hair critics
Hair we go. Gabby Douglas made history Thursday night. And we, black folks, repeated our history of self-hatred.
It's been a historic Olympics for Gabby Douglas, but on Twitter, her hair is just as hot a topic as her performance.Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
For the better part of two evenings, while America’s sweetheart led the U.S. to team gold and then held off two Russians for a historic individual gold in the prestigious all-around, black folks debated her hair via social media.
Comedian Chris Rock, the producer of the 2009 documentary Good Hair, had to be at home cackling and rolling a blunt. Our $9 billion-yearly obsession with straightening, lengthening, curling, coloring and Europeanizing our hair was interfering with celebrating Gabby’s total domination of the Summer Olympics' top sport.
Look, I’m an expert on inappropriate, poorly timed joking tweets, but this was a child ascending to new heights and, one leap at a time, elevating the very people ridiculing her.
“For real though nobody wanted to go to London to do Gabby Douglas’ hair.”
“Gabby Douglas is a beast. I wish her mama would do something about her hair though.”
Search “Gabby Douglas and hair” on Twitter and you’ll find all sorts of one-liners.
Some of my non-black readers may not get the seriousness of this issue, but I swear to you this is an important problem for black folks. Far too many black women’s self-esteem is tied up in their hair or the overpriced weave dangling from their heads.
“I am so passionate about this issue because it is negatively affecting us black women,” 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes said. “Many don’t work out or learn to swim because of their relaxed hair. It’s something that needs to be talked about because it really is costing us our health.”
Seriously, many black women choose not to exercise because they fear sweating will ruin their recently chemically-treated hair. A big part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s push for physical activity is geared toward getting African-American girls to embrace exercise.
Two black women, Alexandria Williams and Whitney Patterson, started a web site, SportyAfros.com, dedicated to educating black girls on how to exercise and take care of their hair.
Outraged by the comments she read on Twitter and Facebook, Monisha Randolph wrote a passionate blog post defending Gabby and her hair for SportyAfros.com. Titled “The Gabby Douglas Hair Controversy Unwrapped,” the posting went viral and landed SportyAfros in the Washington Post, among other places.
“The Surgeon General pointed out last year many black women will not work out because their hair is a hindrance,” Alexandria Williams said to me in an email. “Another focus of the site is to tackle the issue of African-American obesity in America. According to the Office of Minority Health, four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese. It is our personal mission to change this statistic by providing the tools to empower and encourage black women to lead healthy, active lifestyles.”
It all begins with a healthy perspective on their hair. It’s impossible to convey how obsessed with hair black women can be. It’s not uncommon for a black woman to spend several hundred dollars on a hair makeover and then spend the next several days sleeping upright in bed so as not to mess up her new ‘do.
“I advise black women to go natural and stop relaxing your children’s hair, too,” Dawes explained. “At 35 years old I finally embraced my natural locks. It was liberating and empowering for me. I wish I would have done it sooner.”
Dawes said she never worried about her hair when she was competing as a gymnast. There was no time.
What’s weird about the Gabby controversy is that her hair seemed to be styled in the same fashion as the other contestants. I’m no expert, but her hair appeared to be pulled straight back and placed in a “bun” in the back. Many of the complainers on social media teased her for wearing too much gel.
This perfectly illustrates the problem for black women: They can’t win no matter what they do with their hair. Gabby Douglas looked like the cute little girl everyone would want as their daughter or little sister and she was still the butt of jokes.
“She’s gorgeous, Gabby Douglas is,” tennis star Serena Williams told my colleague Greg Couch. “Her hair is amazing. Doing great. And she’s freakin’ winning gold medals. She’s awesome.”
More Stories From Jason Whitlock