I was saddened to see numerous news stories and reports about how people were criticizing Gabby Douglas’s hair during and after her amazing gold medal performance in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition. I haven’t seen it written outright in black & white, but I know what the problem is. People…mostly Black people, don’t like it that her hair wasn’t bone straight and tightly pulled back against her head like a second skin (like how the Russians had their hair). Nevermind the fact that Gabby’s hair type is the polar opposite of what grows out of the Russians’ heads and it is unnatural and unrealistic to try to emulate them.
I’ve been growing out my relaxer for a year and a half now; with almost no relaxer left (it either broke off or I cut it out) so my hair is just huge now. When I go to work, I struggle for a good 15 minutes (at least) to pull it back into a bun. The end result is a bun on a puffy base of hair (my hair isn’t long enough for my edges to go into the bun yet). At first I was a bit self-conscious of my look. But my non-Black co-workers seemed nonplussed. So I got over it. However I feel, no I know, that Black people disapprove of my messy hair.
Sure, I could gel my hair to death, flat-iron it twice a day, or slip-pin my hair to tame it more. But I don’t feel like doing all that. And what would I be doing it for? So that I can seem more presentable, professional and civilized? To make these claims, then you are implying that the natural state of my hair is the opposite of all these things.
When I see Gabby Douglas and her hair, I see a young lady who has her priorities right. Her mental state is not focused on trivial things like the straightness of her hair. She is focused on her sport and on her execution of her skills. She is not [yet] susceptible to the superficial aspects of what people find attractive. In all honesty, it is a disaster that today’s society worships physical beauty and aestheticism; instead of being impressed by the spirit and talent of people. That is what really counts when it comes to respecting people.
But as much as I am disappointed, I still see glimmers of hope after all. After leaving work yesterday, I pulled my bun out which left this full cloud of hair behind my headband. As my hair slowly recoiled in the humidity, the 7-year old sister of a friend of mine commented to me that she liked my hair. I should also mention that she was White. For now she understands that my hair doesn’t have to look just like her hair in order to be beautiful.
I hope that she can grow up and keep the same opinion. 🙂