Gabby Douglas: Gold vs. Naps

It was sad to hear people were badmouthing Gabby Douglas after she represented the U.S. so beautifully by becoming the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s all-around gymnastics.

I’ve heard little bits and pieces of her story — what she sacrificed, what her family sacrificed for her to be able to train and pursue this dream — and for that to be tainted in any way by talk about a hairstyle is just wrong. In a discussion of hair versus legacy-building and record breaking career highlights, the gold wins over the naps, hands down.

I didn’t even notice her hair. All I saw in those pictures was beauty, the length of her leaps, that huge bright smile, the flawless brown skin and a body that Jillian Michaels couldn’t have ripped any better.

If I could say one thing to all the short sighted, nap-minded haters, it would be to think about whose standard of beauty you’re judging this woman by. Consider why you feel uncomfortable seeing a few waves in a black woman’s hair. And I don’t even want you to consider that in light of the fact that this woman’s career revolves around physical activity.

Think: Who said that having lank straight hair is the standard for beauty? This is deep stuff. It’s foundational. It speaks to many different things, including self-esteem, performance, priorities, and at its core an inability to accept reality and change.

At the risk of being overly controversial, the attitude these people have expressed publically when talking about Gabby’s hair equates to something my mother calls a slave mentality. That’s what I mean about accepting change.

Once upon a time, black women were convinced that the hair that grew out of our heads was ugly. That who we are as women, as people, walking around like anyone else, was unacceptable. And many of us have been scrambling to reach this nearly impossible standard ever since.

Thankfully, to some degree that has changed. We live in a time when diversity is appreciated, where there is a coterie of people — shameless plug for those hardworking diversity executives out there — who work to ensure we can all feel comfortable bringing the natural us into the workplace and focusing on work, not hair styles.

The only thing that would have been more beautiful than witnessing this 16-year-old, gold-medal winner out there doing her thing, would have been if her accomplishment had been unequivocally embraced by everyone who knew of her triumph.