After a summer filled with vicious political fighting for the presidency and various Congressional seats, ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, police shootings of unarmed citizens, alleged retaliation of those shootings by deranged people, and terrorists attacks in Orlando, FL, France, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the world, I was good and ready to watch the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Like many who are deeply critical of our country when it falls short of its democratic ideals, I turn into a decided homer when it comes to USA athletes. Also, it’s BRAZIL! This is a country I think EVERY Black person should visit. Despite the huge income disparity—the horrible favelas and homelessness—it is a magnificently beautiful country. And, the African influence is unmistakable! Its art, music, dance, and culture all reflect the African aesthetic and its population is largely African in its heritage. The girl from Ipanema is a tourist industry fantasy. It should be the girl from Angola!
But, despite the excitement of the Olympics in Rio, I came across a post that suggested a group of Black women were once again reading Gold Medal gymnast, Gabby Douglas about her hair! Really, people? This young woman has accomplished more in her short life than most of her social media trollers will EVER in their lives. Indeed, I imagine that most of her haters are in far less physical shape than she is. I imagine that they cannot point to one major contribution they have made to the world. I imagine their own children’s hair can use some tightening up! But whether that is true of not what makes Gabby Douglas fair game for YOUR critique. Is her hair any worse than Katie Ledecky’s huge forehead? Is it worse than Michael Phelps’ obvious lisp? Is it worse than Breanna Stewart’s ghostly white complexion? No, yet no one is holding them up to ridicule…and they shouldn’t. They did not achieve Olympic quality greatness based on what they look like. They achieved it based on their skills and the hard work they put in to develop those skills. The physical flaws of these athletes are not unlike the flaws almost every human being has. Most of us are not runway or print models. Most of us are not screen actors. We are as John Legend’s (who incidentally, is incredibly short) song says filled with, “perfect imperfections.”
There are plenty of people who I think are fair game for potshots and clap backs—politicians, Hollywood actors and actresses, reality stars, sports figures, musicians, rappers, and the ridiculously wealthy. We can pick on them because they can take it. They expect it. They wear big boy and big girl pants. But a young woman whose only desire is to represent her country and showcase the talents she and her family have sacrificed everything to get to this point are strictly out of bounds!
For those people (and in this case it’s primarily Black women) who have time to pick apart Gabby’s hair I can only imagine you are spending more money on your hair and nails than you are on books. I bet your hair (whether it’s in a box or in 5 packs on the top of your head) is “slayed to da gawds” but can you get a mortgage? Are you children all on the honor roll or dean’s list? Are you bringing down a 6-figure salary? Are you donating to charity and volunteering in your community? No? Well then you need to take several seats and leave that young woman alone. I can’t imagine what you’re going to say when the two sista’s on the swim team get out of the pool and take off their swim caps. Every time I see Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles I smile and say to myself, “You are SO beautiful…to me!”
Stay Black and Smart!