My Name Is Gabby Douglas: I Am Not My Hair Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

Originally posted on 8/8/12, during the Summer Olympics in London.

Four years ago, I wrote a post that ordinarily would have feted Gabby Douglas on the occasion of her having won two Gold Medals.  She exercised her considerable and magnificent skills to render stellar performances in winning both an individual Gold Medal, as well as a Gold for the all around best performance in Women’s Gymnastics.

Instead, due to a perverse spike in news coverage, I decided to write about a case of black hair shaming of Olympian Gabby Douglas. She was subjected an all out Twitter assault as a result of her appearance at the London Games. We are now a week into the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Gabby is back on the scene as a member of a dominant American Gymnastics team, and inexplicably, once more, on blast. Her hair is front and center, yet again. Since my thoughts on such self-debasing behavior haven’t changed one iota, I decided to re-post the August 8, 2012 Edition of “Break It Down!”

I am going to leave the 2012 story, unredacted, below. But I do want to at least address briefly this doubling down, if you will, on Gabby and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hair Day. If the uproar in 2012 was disappointing, and it surely was, then this week’s meltdown is disappointing on steroids. That is to say, in the unlikely event, anyone under the sun did not know better in 2012, in the name of everything that is not arrested development, having gone through 2012, they should know better by now.

Today, as then, it is largely a Twitter upheaval. I am not going to link the comments this time. If you really must know, consult your favorite Search Engine, or of course, Twitter. With minimal effort, you can find all the sobering ugly details.

Lots of people have a fundamental issue with natural hair. Put a microscope on that and take a closer look, and many African Americans have an even larger problem with it. Refine the review even more narrowly, and it is a near certainty that African American women as a group, not every single one of them, of course, have an even greater problem still…with natural hair.

First and foremost, I am not picking on black women. My mother was a black woman, God rest her soul. I love black women. I even understand the notion that the issue of hair is one that black women take quite seriously. That is especially true when  the subject is themselves, or other black women. In a way, it is fair submit, black women view this through the prism of a Sovereign Sisterhood, and they enthusiastically seek to protect their brand. And yes, I put it that way largely because much, if not most of the chatter has emanated from black women. In full disclosure it is worth noting, at least this time, substantial pushback has been reported.  Of course, if you know me, you know I have an affinity for natural hair…my own.

The thing is, my beautiful Nubian Queens, Gabby is still, and always will be your sister. However, in this moment in Rio she is a 20-year old athlete, singularly focused on going for Gold. By the way, that means she was only 16 when she was subjected to this madness in London in 2012. At any rate, to wind this down, Gabby is on a business trip, and her athletic prowess and execution are the story, not her edges. Besides, Black Hair Matters! The End!

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can thank the Gabby Hair Haters; otherwise, I’d be writing about the defection of 50 National Security experts from the ranks of Trump voters, and his controversial Wilmington, NC Rally dog whistle statement about “the 2nd Amendment people,” and how they might intervene against Hillary Clinton…or any Supreme Court Nominees she might submit, and/or how Hillary is still trying to come to terms with answering questions about her email and the fact that the father of the recent Orlando shooter was seated behind her at a recent Kissimmee, FL Rally. Not to worry; we have nearly 3 months left to explore what’s happening with the campaigns. Undoubtedly, we will return to politics.

Meanwhile, GO TEAM USA!

There is no doubt Gabrielle Christina Victoria “Gabby” Douglas is a star in the vast firmament of gymnasts!

I promise to make this short and sweet.  Ok, maybe short will have to do.

It is possible; I might have been persuaded before the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic games, to believe that I would craft a post about the games.  However, under no circumstances could I have imagined it would have been about gymnastics, Women’s Gymnastics no less.

I’d like to say Gabby Douglas’ history-making performances made the difference, and served as the catalyst for my choosing this topic.  Alas, sadly in fact, while her performances were scintillating indeed, it was not her mastery of the craft, or her superlative artistry that sold me on this topic.

No, it was not that an amazing athlete plied her skills with power, poise, and precision that caused me to choose this topic, though she was amazing and her routines were powerful, poised, and precise.  It was not the history-making nature of her performances; yet she was the first African American to win Olympic Gold Medals in both the individual and team all-around competitions.  And it was not that Gabby blended seamlessly with the other four members of the Fab 5 to turn in a series of sterling performances for Team America, despite the fact she did…in fact, she was, or did, all of the above!

I decided to write about Gabby’s Olympic exploits because so many of her “Sisters,” and I use the term guardedly, shamed themselves by deciding to make a spectacle of themselves, rather than revel in Ms. Douglas’ spectacular accomplishments.  To put it tersely, a group of “Ugly Americans,” far too many of whom were African American women, elevated Gabby’s hair to “News of the Day” status, when all she did was show her Championship mettle.  I love black women, but “Sisters,” this was, to put it mildly, “not your finest hour.”

As I thought about the conversation which trended in the Twittersphere and proliferated on other social media for several days, India.Arie’s tune, I Am Not My Hair came to mind.  Released originally, November 15, 2005, the nearly 7-year old standard should be required listening for each and everyone who got “caught-up” in Olympic Hair-gate.  Gabby’s hair, her ponytail, and/or her kitchen (and y’all know what I mean…if you don’t, see definition #3), simply should not have been a concern.

Gabby went to the London Olympics to compete with her teammates and peers from 204 countries around the world.  She was tasked with vying for medals against the world’s best in their respective gymnastic disciplines.  That she won two Gold Medals confirms that she passed her tests with flying colors (Red, White & Blue, of course).

Gabby’s combination of performance and personality has spurred analysts to predict she will cash in on a marketing bonanza once she returns stateside.  As a matter of fact, her likeness appeared on the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box the day after her individual Gold Medal triumph.  It is anticipated that she will earn millions in endorsements, trading on her historic Olympic success.

My short-term prediction is that when we see Ms. Douglas next, in her post-Olympics life, she will be appearing on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and the TV circuit in general.  Moreover, to the great pleasure of her recent critics, she is certain to be elegantly coiffed, splendidly dressed, and looking like a million bucks…which she’ll be worth…literally.

Can’t you just imagine Breakfast at Gabby’s?  You can be sure, in this version of the story, her “kitchen” will feature prominently, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes; along with her smiling picture, (laughing all the way to the bank, eh), adorning the box.

Oh yeah, She will definitely introduce herself, proclaiming, “My Name is Gabby Douglas; I Am Not My Hair!”

I’m done.  Don’t just holla; holla back!

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2 thoughts on “My Name Is Gabby Douglas: I Am Not My Hair Redux

  1. Please? everyone leave Gabby Douglas alone on hair! it’s about accomplishing her gold medals not hair! support her talent&help Achive her goals&dreams some more! everybody is not bless to have a good grade of hair! everybody can’t use perms&wear weaves better than others who are weavers wearer! it’s not about hair it’s about how America sees you for you because God made you before hair was growing&to be worn in a style! right now! it’s not anybody’s business of how she wears her hair! if you wants her hair a certain way pay for it&style it like you want it! Bc you will never be Gabby Douglas! at least it will go down in history about her hair of year 2012&2016 bad hair made history! could you top that with the gold meadals she accomplish! nall! so be on the quite please? thank you! and have a non gold medalist day!!


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