Let’s begin with what really matters: Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the first African American to win the individual all-around event at the Olympics in 2012, earned yet another gold medal last night as part of “the Final Five,” Team USA’s contingent of fierce, female gymnasts. This is Douglas’ third gold medal and her second Olympics.
Douglas has one job right now: to physically perform to the best of her ability. And she’s doing that. When it comes to Gabby Douglas, this—and her continued good health—are all that matter. Even if some misguided folk think otherwise.
Just as in 2012, a small but vocal contingent have emerged to focus on dumb s–t when it comes to Douglas. Again, they are a minority of viewers, but their incessant hating has caught the attention of Essence, ESPN and Teen Vogue, all of whom have reported on the latest (and stupid) backlash about Douglas’ hair.
Although she is an athlete in the midst of competition, this misguided group wants to know why Douglas’ edges ain’t laid right, as if that actually matters. As if laid edges will put some extra height on her tumbles. As if a well-brushed ponytail will prevent a pulled muscle. As if using hair gel raises the score of her performance by a tenth of a point.
“Social media author” Terez Baskin broke down the hair naysayers’ point of view in a clickbait blog post, “Why Gabby Douglas’ Hair Should Matter to You.” In short, Baskin argued that the state of Douglas’ hair was a reflection of her poor self-care and that black girls may have trouble admiring Douglas because her hair ain’t right. It was respectability politics run amok, but disguised as some sort of “I just want the best for her.”
It seems that way too many folks were raised with that piss-poor perspective Beyoncé sang about in the opening lines of “Pretty Hurts“: “Mama said, you’re a pretty girl/What’s in your head it doesn’t matter/Brush your hair, fix your teeth/What you wear is all that matters.”
Your mom lied.
Social media, poor parenting and no common sense have folks out here thinking that looking fly 24-7 is actually possible. Curated Instagram feeds with Photoshopped images got people thinking that there are black women with the superpower to defy humidity and sweat’s effects on natural hair. Nah. Folks just don’t upload pics on those days. Pretty is nice, but if all you are is pretty, then you haven’t accomplished much.
Yeah, it’s cool to look cute. And cute opens doors. It does. But if you want to stay in the room (or, um, a relationship), you need to bring more to the table than your looks and your edges. Like Douglas.
Folks don’t realize just how stupid they sound, critiquing the hair of a young woman winning at the Olympics and at life. Douglas’ hair ain’t laid on the uneven bars, but you know when it is laid? On the covers of Essence and People and Time and Teen Vogue. It’s also laid on the covers of Douglas’ three books and on the front of the Corn Flakes box Douglas was featured on. It was laid when she was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and when she key-keyed with Michelle Obama on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
Douglas isn’t old enough to drink, and yet she has accomplished more in her short lifetime than the entire bloodline of the folks complaining about her hair. Look at her. Now look at yourself. All you got is “good” hair and hate. Gabby Douglas has gold medals.
This article was originally published on TheRoot.com