Why Gabby Douglas’ hair matters
Too many books by Negro writers are addressed to a white audience. By doing this the authors run the risk of limiting themselves to the audience’s presumptions of what a Negro is or should be; the tendency is to become involved in polemics, to plead the Negro’s humanity. You know, many white people question that humanity but I don’t think that Negroes can afford to indulge in such a false issue. For us the question should be, what are the specific forms of that humanity, and what in our background is worth preserving or abandoning.
Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act, 1964
In this great post-race utopia we live in, people still tend to care about some really obnoxious things. Among this list of inane items is the topic of nappy hair (i.e. bad hair) and, God forbid, showing an iota of naps in public. Hair without naps is known as good hair or straight hair.
Chris Rock’s film, Good Hair, discussed the idea of good hair vs. bad hair and what this meant for the self esteem of black folks:
The most revealing observation about Gabby Douglas’ hair is that no one can blame the media for sparking this controversy: Vocal African Americans on social media started this mess with comments on articles and the thousands of tweets such as these:
I love Gabby Douglas, but I'm mad at whoever keeps letting her wear that half wig and that silky ponytail on the back of some nappy hair.—
Tia (@teeteemiltown) July 31, 2012
Yes *hangs head* “@Kayerrr So all weekend my fam been doggin gabby Douglas hair, I know y'all been doggin it”—
Eve (@Ahoytheree_) July 31, 2012
I wanna do Gabby Douglas hair so bad. She makes me sad.—
Imani (@ImaniSuiteheart) July 30, 2012
Gabby Douglas's Raising an Olympian story >> Thats why her hair like that! She was partially raised by white people before she made it! Lmao—
Jordan Humphrey (@_itsjordannnn) July 30, 2012
The question each of these tweets ask is, “How could Gabby Douglas go in front of the whole world and represent us with her hair looking like that?” To put this in perspective, these comments and tweets came after Douglas won the gold medal. In other words, “Becoming the first American gymnast ever to win the team and individual all around gold at the same Olympics doesn’t mean squat because your hair is whack.” What would have happened if the rest of the girls on the team had their hair worn the same way?
The proof is right there: Gabby Douglas’ hair matters because it is the only head with naps (or potential naps, where the heck are they?). Ellison believed that black authors pleading for white readers to accept their humanity was a false issue – the primary concern was, and remains, the self esteem of black folks and the preoccupation of securing acceptance from mainstream society. In this case, social couch potatoes are pleading for the acceptance of black beauty through the hair of Gabby Douglas which is unfair to her and a red herring. I have to call the Vice President of Common Sense to make sure, but I think Kellogg is not going to offer a $90 million dollar contract to Gabby Douglas if she has good hair and no gold medals. Who knows these things for certain?
Until the Vice President of Common Sense returns my call, I believe all black people should heed the wisdom of Michael Jordan and shave all their hair off. Nobody ever said his hair was too nappy because they couldn’t.