Before gymnast Gabby Douglas’ feet could touch the floor in a historic performance at the 2012 Olympics, her precious prize had already been tarnished by black folk getting all in her hair — literally. These black folk were upset that Gabby’s hair wasn’t properly done.
Never mind the wunderkind was sweating while flying to unimaginable heights to snag an honor no black person had ever achieved: an all around individual gold medal in gymnastics. I was angered over the rowdy twitter chatter of the hair police and so glad the young heroine wouldn’t be distracted by the “hairsterical” taunts of this malicious pep squad.
I mean, if they wanted to get metaphorical about “hair,” then all they had to do was look. Were they oblivious to her tiny frame coiling like “Kitt Curls” on the balancing beam? Did they miss her “locked” body “twist” itself up in the air? Did they ignore her graceful “waves” and her “split (second) endings” in breath-taking floor exercises? You want hair? We got hair! But please, none of the madness that she wasn’t cosmetologically correct!
When I saw Gabby’s innocent smile and beautiful face, she bore striking resemblance to another young girl who had fiercely pursued her dream decades before: Oprah Winfrey. I immediately tweeted a photo of Oprah holding a microphone when she was about Gabby’s age. Ironically, the day after Gabby was crowned, Oprah faced stern rebukes for appearing with her natural hair on the upcoming September cover of her O Magazine.
Oprah said she likes to “let loose” in her spare time.
But why do we recoil at black women’s choices about how they wear their hair? As if some hair is better than other hair, as if some hair is preferable to other hair. Well, sisters, let me let you in on a public secret: There ain’t no such thing as “good hair.”
Hair politics are pretty ancient. A multi-billion dollar industry grew from the urge, first expressed thousands of years ago, to flick insects or mud from mangled locks by taking a fish bone or carved whale rib to remove the debris.