“I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair?” said Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas yesterday to Associated Press. “I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about hair.”
Douglas isn’t the only one confused. I though India.Arie settled this in 2005, but no. When a major historic achievement, in this case by a Black female, is tossed of the rails by trivia, one wonders why. The distraction? A nuclear device detonation or an al-Qaeda attack? No. It was her hair. One wonders: Are some Black people so insecure with their place in the world that a tied back pony-tail can set them into a tailspin? With all the perms, weaves and wigs walking around I’m not sure why Douglas was singled out for special attention.
The “controversy” was built on a dubious premise: That everything said on twitter matters. The second dubious premise: That every move someone makes is political. It was 25 years before Douglas’ birth that Black power and pride connected with politics at times symbolized by a prominent afro. Nothing wrong with that. But does it mean that a 16-year-old tumbling on the floor is attempting a counter statement with her pony-tail?
Note the focus on women. Obsession with look is all ours. Men can simply put on pants and shirt and step. We don’t look back and question the conks of Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington and attach their hairstyle decisions to their character or politics. Just as the obvious inescapable European standards of beauty are entrenched in American life now as they were then everyone makes individual decisions regarding acceptance and presentation. But a 16-year-old is more likely to be focused on flopping and being slammed to the floor by a mistake in front of millions than her hair-do.
Melissa Harris Perry has time for roundtables on hair featuring all natural participants? That’s entertaining. But Gabby Douglas’ mother reportedly just filed for bankruptcy in Virginia Beach. With the Black unemployment rate, wealth gap and incarceration rates at record highs there would appear to be a few pressing matters facing the Black community. Obviously Douglas’ focus on her own business has yielded success. Perhaps there is much to be learned from a 16-year-old.