About a week ago, an advertisement for “Raising an Olympian” came on shortly before my intended video on YouTube. Out of impatience, I usually skip advertisements—if possible—but this time, I figured I could grin and bear it just this once. I am glad that I did because this was the moment that I fell in love with you.
For someone so young, you have so much tenacity. Who can say such a thing at 16 years of age? At 16, my dream was to be whisked away by Shemar Moore. There are people twice your age who have not followed or even achieved their aspirations. You had a dream that you wanted to pursue even when your mother was not in agreement.
In 2008, you told your mother that you wanted to train with Olympic coach Liang Chow. When she found out that he lived more than 3,000 miles away, she was dead set against it. You could have thrown in the towel but you did not give up. Your tenacity would not let you. In 2010, you told your mother that you had a shot if you trained with Chow. Your mother finally relented.
In 2011, you nearly gave up on your dream. You grew very homesick and wanted to go back with your family after their visit. Your mother could have easily welcomed you back with open arms but instead told you, “You can’t home after this. You sacrificed all of this time. You sacrificed your body. You sacrificed everything for this dream.”
So here we are in 2012. You participated in your first Olympics and became the first African-American to win the all around title in gymnastics. Congratulations. Being the first African-American in anything is an accomplishment in itself. We all know such a thing is a rarity and should be celebrated. Many hearts swelled with pride but something quite ignorant occurred—a segment of the African-American community chose to insult your hair instead of praising your accomplishments.
Many of us—and many who are not of African-American descent—find this utterly disgusting. The way you wear your hair should not be a topic of discussion. It is shallow and petty. It seems as if we as a people are always creating a division. Now the hot button issue is natural hair vs. relaxed hair. But this is actually deeper than just hair. It is simply more than just “hating”; it is a form of self-hatred.
The self-hatred within a vast segment of the African-American community is sickening. A lot of us want to look like someone other than ourselves. Some of us want our hair to be straight instead of kinky or coil-y. Some of us feel the most beautiful wearing blue contacts and blonde weaves/wigs. Some of us want to bleach our skin instead of embracing our Blackness. Some of us do not even want to be associated with the continent of Africa. Some of us are quicker to say, “I got Indian in my family” than admitting that they have African tribesmen in their lineage.
I used to be one of these people in regards to hair. The sight of my hair kinking up made me instantly embarrassed. I felt less beautiful when I was not wearing hair extensions. And if feeling that way was not enough, there was always someone in the background reminding me to “get a touch-up” or “get my hair done.” When I finally embraced my naturally kinky hair texture nearly 6 years ago, the walls of self-hatred tumbled down and I never felt freer.
You are beautiful Gabby, kinky hair and all. You would be beautiful bald. You would be beautiful if your hair was fried, dyed and laid to the side. You are more than your hair. You are a two-time Olympic gold medalist at 16 years old. How many of these e-bullies sitting behind a keyboard hurling insults can say that? Hmm…I’m guessing not a one.