Can somebody please tell me what this fascination is between some Black women and their hair that causes some Black women to go off on other Black women who they feel don’t measure up to or meet the social standard when it comes to how their hair is publicly displayed?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’ve probably been living under a rock to have missed the way 20-year old American gymnast and gold medalist Gabby Douglas has been ripped to shreds by folks on social media regarding her hair, particularly many Black women.
Douglas went through a lot since winning the Individual All-Around gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, having finished fourth at the U.S. championships; having to be placed on the team by the coach because she didn’t qualify; barely falling short from qualifying to defend her Olympic medal in Rio this year; being roasted over the Internet because she didn’t place her hand over her heart as the national anthem played as they received their gold medals for winning the team All-Around; and people accusing her of not being a team player and not supporting the two young ladies who qualified for the individual All-Around finals instead of her.
It has been a nightmare for Douglas, who cried real tears during her last post-competition interview after coming in seventh place in her last routine of the 2016 Olympics – the uneven bars. A reporter asked Douglas about all the criticism she was receiving from many people back in the U.S. while she was competing in Rio, to which she replied:
“I tried to stay off the Internet because there’s just so much negativity…Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [on the medal podium] or I look depressed. … It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It’s been kind of a lot to deal with.”
Even after she finished her interview with the press, Douglas could be seen in the hallway at Olympic Arena facing a wall in the corner crying and letting all of her emotions flow. It was a tough thing to deal with, considering that she didn’t do anything at all to deserve such treatment.
But is this anything new though? Of course not!
We’ve seen this movie play out, time and time again, even four years ago during the 2012 London Olympics, when Douglas endured much of the same abuse on social media – about her Black hair. Honestly, I’m sick and tired of seeing the way many African Americans tear one another down, especially the way I see many of our Black women getting relentlessly attacked by other Black women. What is up with that for real? Is this the textbook definition of self-hate?
Social media has been cruel to Douglas, and it is shameful how many people, especially many Black people, have co-signed on to this cultural phenomenon and foolishness of berating and talking about Black women like Douglas, having no regard to how their words and comments will impact them emotionally – especially someone as young as Douglas who is doing something positive with her life by representing American in a classy way on an international stage.
I remember several years ago, I watched a ton of Black women take to social media and tear Fox Sports analyst and one of the coldest female sports reporters in the game, Pam Oliver, to shreds because of her Black hair. I truly believe many of the responses Douglas has received, as it relates to her hair, is indicative of much of the self-hatred many Black people have towards one another in this country. If you would be honest, you’d acknowledge the truth about this self-hatred many of us have towards one another, a self-hatred that continues to contribute to a disease I call “Tear another Black Person Down” syndrome. It is real and you know it.
Douglas is an accomplished American superstar, who has paid her dues to compete at the highest level on the international stage and there is nothing that anyone can do to take that away from her. Douglas said she “tried” to stay off the Internet and off of social media, but what 20-year old millennial do you know who stays off of the Internet and off of social media?
It’s hard for someone to adjust a major part of their life, and something that you enjoy such as being on social media, while attempting to ignore people whom you don’t know that are constantly berating you and being insensitive towards you for no apparent reason. It’s sad to know all of these judgmental vultures were sitting in front of their TV, salivating, and waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on this talented Black woman as soon as they put the camera on her.
I mean, they couldn’t wait to chime in and go on social media to share their thoughts about her beautiful Black hair. Apparently, some Black women have nothing else better to do than to live their lives worrying about whether a 20-year old Black woman has gotten a perm or isn’t the way they would have gotten it done, as if they really have influence over what that person does.
Most of the people berating Douglas are mostly feeling a sense of self-hatred with who they are, and want to find someone else to ridicule to make themselves feel better. I mean, if these Black women really gave a damn about Douglas and her Black hair, then why wouldn’t they send her a personal note or a private message, rather than a public ridicule? Why put her on blast on social media? I’ll tell you why. At the end of the day, it’s self-hate. They hate themselves and because they see someone on TV that they wish they could be, but can’t, they will find every reason to tear that person down. These people know they wouldn’t want the same thing done to them.
All of the berating comments about this Black woman’s hair are not putting money in your pocket or keeping money out of hers, so why do it?
As a people, our mindsets should be on improving and empowering our African American Kings and Queens, not belittling them and making them feel less than worthy of our praise and support because of how their hair looks and is done. The mentality that many of these Black women have, which praises a woman with a horrible attitude and questionable character who appears on a reality show, yet disrespects and seeks to tear down a Black female gold medalist who just represented their country and other Black women on the grandest stage, is mind-boggling.
Back in 2006, Neo Soul and R&B singer India.Arie wrote and released a song entitled “I Am Not My Hair” from her third studio album, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, where the chorus goes:
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
It’s sad that Douglas had to endure all of the Internet bullying and Black hair shaming, while continuing to compete in an intense event on an international stage for a country that turned its back on her and some Black sisters who thought it was appropriate to go after her because of her hair. I can understand why Douglas may have finished in seventh place in the uneven bars because of the stress of being bullied, but more importantly, I can understand the tears coming from Douglas’ eyes, having to try and figure out what she did to deserve such treatment – again.
You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself, and we should all love and support someone like Gabby Douglas and embrace her beautiful Black hair.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.