Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gabby Douglas and her hair!


Stunning!  Absolutely perfect.  Breathtaking!  Extraordinary precision and power. 

All are descriptors a serious gymnast might deeply appreciate.  After years of preparation for which there is no adequate description of the demands and sacrifice, sixteen year-old Gabby Douglas exploded onto the international stage as a champion.  She thrilled the world! 

A side-conversation erupted almost immediately on twitter and elsewhere even before the competition was over.  Criticism of her hair was rather wide-spread.  Her hair?  Thousands, then tens of thousands of comments about her hair.

As a guy,
to me this makes no sense at all.  She's in a high-intensity physical routine, and her hair just needs to stay out of the way.  Guys like me don't care or even notice such things beyond the 'out of the way' requirement.  Apparently, though, it was a matter of some concern to others.
Interestingly, some of the roots for such comments are perhaps traceable.
"..., the insecurities that would lead a middle-aged black woman to hiss her teeth at the thought of a black female Olympian with less-than magnificent hair became so easy to understand. 

They are the same insecurities that cause my (usually very enlightened) mother to act like a wrinkled shirt is the end of the world. She doesn't want me to go out in the world (read: in front of white people) looking messy. Not only does she want me to perform well, she wants me to look good doing it – to leave no room for the criticism that she feared growing up in the 1960’s."
Suddenly, I remember.  I grew up white through the 50's and 60's.  I remember those years fondly until I remember the 'white' and 'colored' water fountains at the store.  The "criticism that she feared" was all too present.

Curious how many generations it takes to get beyond such a wicked root?  All from the thought that one person might somehow be above another just because of color or race or class.

You've spoken of being the target of bullying and racism in your gym in Virginia and also growing up. How did you deal with that?
"It was a long time ago. It was very painful to be made fun of, but I have a forgiving heart, I forgive them, and I've moved past that."

Gabby Douglas and her Olympic championship are all the more spectacular;  I smile as I think about it.  We're so proud of her, of her family, of her community, and of her nation as it continues to progress.  
She's more than a champion.  She's an inspiration and role model and the leading edge of the good for which we all hope.  Thanks, Gabby.

Now there are no longer insiders and outsiders, upper and lower, black or white or brown or whatever, just the one human race, thank you Father.

UPDATE:  Summer Olympics 2016, she's still incredible and shines brightly among the many she's inspired.

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