Yeah Gabby Douglass & Black Hair Politics. : ThyBlackMan

Friday, June 22, 2018

Yeah Gabby Douglass & Black Hair Politics.

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Relationships, Sista Talk, Weekly Columns

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( If you rock an afro you’re resistant; a rebel. If you sport a weave you’re a devastating diva. If you like to loc it up you’re unclean, unkempt, and probably like to get high. If you rock a press and curl you’re repressed and confused, don’t know whether to conform to the crowd or love your tresses the way they grow out of your scalp. If you still bear through the burns of a relaxer you hate yourself. If you happen to rock any of the combination perhaps a natural covered by a weave ponytail slicked together with black gel and non-camoflauging hair clips then you’re ratchet; your Olympic gold medal at the age of 16 be damned.

Black women have more hair problems than a little bit. One author refers to her beautiful mass as a mutant. Another refuses to talk about hair ever again. A good many of us without a self-created soap box relate our hair stories on twitter. Many more of us unload our stories on friends who understand and have stories of their own.

When I first saw Gabby Douglas I saw her hair and thought she had it held back and secure so as not to be deducted by judges for errant fly aways that won’t  stay down no matter what kind of hair spray her mostly caucasian team mates swear by. I didn’t notice rough edges or beady beads. I noticed Gabby Douglas fly through the air like no other gymnast since Dominique Dawes. Yet the criticism across the blogosphere and the twitter verse about this phenomenal 16-year-old’s hair above all of her other amazing accomplishments made me reflect on just where this hair hatred is coming from.

The natural movement that’s all the rage now wasn’t so popular five years ago. Or even 10 years. 10 years ago at the age of 16 I just up and decided I wasn’t going to get my hair done anymore. Dancing ballet daily in Chicago’s hot summer heat was not conducive to a fresh relaxer and a doobie wrap in class. My decision went unnoticed until my edges curled with more kinky vigor and my kitchen would not be placated by a brush and white gel. Everyone from my mother to my four year old god-sister inquired when I was going to do something with my hair. I didn’t have a problem with my increasingly nappy bun so I didn’t see why they did. The criticism continued for months until I finally got braids. Every two weeks for a year and a half I had a standing appointment with my godmother’s cousin to braid my natural locks into something tameable and acceptable.

The year and a half passed and at family urging I relented to a relaxer. Two years later again fed up with a relaxer and trying to find a good and steady stylist while away at school on a college freshman’s budget I decided at the beginning of my sophomore year that I was cutting my hair all off. I did and  was natural until I entered the working world. Once again at family urging  acquiesced to the nose hair burning smell of the creamy crack.

In these two bouts of natural I never tried to be anything more than who I was. Highly active and lacking enthusiasm for sitting in a hot salon for a hairstyle humidity would erupt in a matter of minutes. I wasn’t trying to make a statement of political affiliation or spiritual awakening. I enjoy poetry readings and incense and candles but an Erykah Badu protege I was not. I was just being me and my hair was just doing what it did. It was clean, healthy and it just so happened to be kinky. The natural movement wasn’t my goal. Ease was. Yet here we are years later and there are literal hair wars being waged in blog comments, message boards and through YouTube tutorials. Add to the fact celebrities are endorsing the natural trend by showing their un-weaved un-wigged heads to the world and Black women have entered into a cultural cluster-fuck where what our hair looks like defines who and what we are before and above anything else.

Right now Oprah’s natural do is making headlines after 16 years of weaved, wigged or pressed covers. What I don’t get is why this is such a big deal when most of us have seen Oprah rock the summer corn rows in addition to showing the world her completely au natural self three years ago. But her hair journey has been well received similar to Oscar nominee Viola Davis. Acceptance and approbation. The complete opposite of the racist and asinine comments hurled at a funky fresh fro’ed out Lil’ Mama.

Clearly our Black female celebs and their hair are held to a higher standard than we even hold ourselves. Example, when I received my August issue of Essence last month I thumbed through it and eventually read the cover article on Nia Long. But my my attempt at a mindless escape into futility was rudely interrupted by a pull quote from the actress.

“I’m in my forties, postbaby and I’m thinner than I’ve been in years. I have more energy than I could have imagined. The last step will be letting my hair go natural. That’s when you’ll know I’m free.”

I read that statement and all I could think was what does it mean to be natural. Furthermore, is it only by being natural that freedom is obtained?

Nia Long may not have meant to insert herself into a natural hair battle but this comment and her 2009 appearance in Chris Rock’s Good Hair just raises my curiosity about Ms. Long’s own natural hair journey and why she feels like some other women of color that natural hair is freedom.

I haven’t had a relaxer since the week before I got married this May. I’m still deciding if I want to go natural again or do something else. As I continue to decide I am now rocking thin box braids so I don’t look like who did it and why with an increasingly dry natural looking pin up. I must say seven hours sitting between the propped up knees of four heavy handed African women is not freedom. Neither is picking through a mass of tangled kinky curls after washing and deep conditioning and attempting a twist out. Freedom is not chemical burns or cocoa butter lathered skin burns after not holding your ear far down enough for the hot comb or chi to pass through uninterrupted by flesh. To me freedom is the ability to wear whatever hair style you choose without receiving grief from anyone; Black, Brown, White Male or Female.

Every hair style has its perks. Every hair style has its problems. Every hair style will evoke memories for some of slavery, plantations, a conjured image of a mad Madame C.J. Walker, pickaninnies and mammies in do rags, cover girls, and video models, actresses and singers, Stepford Wives, the First Lady and the former Secretary of State. Whether you’re as natural as Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, as versatile in natural style as Solange or as current and fluent in the latest and greatest from India matters not.What matters most is how you feel about your style and knowing whatever someone else’s perception the way your coif is kept doesn’t mean anything outside of the choice you’ve made in the way to rock your hair.

What perceptions do you make about natural, relaxed, pressed, weaved or braided hair?

Staff Writer; Nikesha Leeper

To connect with this sister feel free to visit; Change Comes Slow.




13 Responses to “Yeah Gabby Douglass & Black Hair Politics.”
  1. Lorraine says:

    I really like it when individuals get together and share thoughts.
    Great website, keep it up!

  2. beverly says:

    Malcolm X, Dr. King, Booker T. Washington, W.E. Dubois and other intelligent black males, no doubt, would turn over in their graves to hear their work for the advancement African-Americans has been degraded to speaking about an Olympican champion’s hair. Willie Lynch, on the other hand would love it.

    Of all the comments that have been made about Gabby’s beautiful hair, few have looked at it from the perspective that black females are ignorant about the beauty and care of their own natural hair. We love paying compliments to women of other races by stating we want our hair just like theirs. Whose to say that black hair is inferior. To my knowledge, we are the only people that can wear our hair four ways: dreads, afro, curly a straight. Our hair isn’t near as kinky as our brains. We need to appreciate the beauty of our own hair and stop passing from one generation to the next that straight hair is the thing.

  3. School daze says:

    I am a black woman who joined a conversation I a hair salon about Gabbys hair.Each and every black woman in that salon said they were proud of her.BUT….I WANT TO BE OBJECTIVE HERE!It was never about Gabby…but it was about black women and the perception by non blacks thatour hair is nappy,kinky,,greasy.And from our childhoods being ridiculed for not looking our best when it came to our shoes and our hair.The two things our mothers and grandmothers drilled into our heads.Most women didnt want her to be looked at the way we were.So to call thousands of black women ignorant and small minded really doesnt explain why such a natural thing as hair envoked so many comment.Im not so sure most black women realize how traumatized they are about hair.God bless Gabby and her family..but maybe this hair thing can be laid to rest and recognized for what it really is…so black women can embrace their nappy hair.

  4. Sandra L. says:

    CONGRATULATIONS to Gabrielle Douglas, The Flying Princess! Gabby is spiritual and thankful to the LORD, highly skilled, talented, and pretty. She is a wonderful gymnastics CHAMPION with a good personality whose hair is often cute and sometimes it is ok. I’m proud of her. Praise God!

  5. huriyyah says:

    WE have renamed Gabby “THE FLYING PRINCESS” AND for those of us that love our hair we see nothing wrong w her hair. Feel free to post a comment of CONGRATULATIONS so Gabby will know we love her, hair and all.

    SOME black folks won’t be satisfied until they have a “HOW FAST CAN U RUN AROUND THE GHETTO W/O GETTING A BULLET IN UR BUTT” competition featuring lil wayne n Ne Ne Leeks. The Atlanta housewives and Basketball wives can get on tv sporting enough weaves n wigs to put the Koreans in the stock market and be considered acceptable doing nothing but drinking and fighting but a 16yr old black OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST is not good enough because of her hair! KELLOGS cornflakes liked her hair.

  6. Johanna says:


  7. Johanna says:

    This image is so true!

    It disgusts me that my own people are complaining about the young lady’s hair! What’s even more disturbing is that you always hear these same black women criticizing the media for not displaying enough paradigm for black women. Yet, Ms. Gabby is one of the very few postive role modles for young African American girls! Those simple minded individuals who participated in saying something negative about this young lady should be ashamed of themselves!

  8. TheTruthNow says:


    You just now notice this? The comment you made is true but let’s face it, that is the norm with the majority of black news oriented websites.

  9. Steph says:

    We have to be careful with what we read on the Internet and we need to not believe everything that we see. There are White racists people who pass themselves as Blacks and write comments.

  10. one love says:

    Hats off 2 U Gabby 4 winning the gold medal for all around gymnastics keeping USA 3 time winning streak intact. Still waiting for Michelle and Barack’s tweet! I’m sure the Obama girls can identify with Gabby and were glued to the screen watching her make history just like Barack did. OOPS I forgot she’s not Phelps.

  11. hoodgirl says:

    Congratulations Gabby! I wore braids throughout my Corporate Career and always received compliments from Senior VPs to first line Supervisors. The only resistance to my hair style came from African American Colleagues. I was not trying to make a political statement I just liked wearing braids because it was low maintenance and I saved a ton of money. Not too long ago I had my hair flat ironed and ran into a client of more than 10 years. She walked right passed me and I immediately called her by her name. She kept looking at me as though she didn’t know who I was. Finally I told her that I was her Tax Advisor then she gave me a huge hug. As we walked away from one another I heard her tell her party that she had never seen me without braids so she had no idea who I was. I told my husband about the incident and he said that I just didn’t realize it but without my braids I look like a completely different person. I asked him if that was good or bad. He smiled and said just different.

  12. kt says:

    i think it is so petty that black people would say anything negative. its bad enough we get enough negative attention. its bad enough we have a black president who is intelligent yet it seems we want to be what white america wants loud, arrogant with style and no substance. we should be reflecting on the moment that one of our people achieved greatness as an individual and as part of a team that hasnt won in over 16 years. that one of our own was a part of history. we are so full of style and no substance that we might as well put the chains back on. it is an expensive journey to make it to the olympics and one that one must decide to undertake or miss out on it and forever wish they could’ve should’ve.

    we as a people spend more time pursuing the fanciest clothes, cars, making everyone who hates us rich instead of doing the same things other ethnic groups to to obtain economic power. well black women the next time you buy hair from the asian shops where they look at you like you trying to steal, ask yourself why havent a group of rich blacks try to get together and obtain a black retail market at least for black america. you know what we probably would not buy from each other.


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