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Gabby Douglas's Hairy Situation

C. Stiles

We African-Americans are our own worst enemies. We do a better job of tearing ourselves down than anyone else. Consider the case of 16-year-old Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas, who last month became the first African-American female gymnast to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics. Instead of applauding her phenomenal accomplishment, black women bloggers went on Twitter to talk trash about her hair being unkempt.

ESPN, the Daily Beast, and USA Today all reported on the debate. Tennis great Serena Williams even defended Gabby, saying, "It's ridiculous. So ridiculous. The tweets were absurd."

"Why hasn't anyone tried to fix Gabby Douglas's hair?" said one. "Gabby Douglas's hair is ratch," read another. MisDOScentavos, whose blog is called "Boy Is a White Racist Word," added, "Gabby Douglas gotta do something with this hair," adding that the post came from a "place of rage, disappointment, and aesthetic displeasure."

After the Olympics, Douglas got a Hollywood makeover courtesy of Essence magazine. It gave credence to the people hating on her hair. She didn't need it. Her hair looked more relaxed than ever when she led the Pledge of Allegiance to start the second night of the Democratic National Convention last week.

This is stupid. Consider the racism Douglas put up with when she was training at Excalibur Gymnastics in her hometown of Virginia Beach. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Douglas recalled one employee saying her nose looked flat, and a white teammate called her a "slave." (Excalibur's owner and her ex-teammates have denied the accusations.)

The African-Americans who badmouthed Gabby's hair should be using Twitter to come to her defense.

Back in the day, when Muhammad Ali was dominating the boxing ring and Arthur Ashe was winning Grand Slam tennis titles, African-Americans rallied around them.

We shouldn't allow Gabby Douglas, a true hero, to be demeaned. She should be honored in gyms and on street corners throughout America. With the election of another black hero, Barack Obama, just weeks away, Gabby is an important symbol — not someone to be criticized for her hair.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.


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