THE BLOG

The Grace of Gabby Douglas

08/13/2012 11:21 am ET | Updated Oct 10, 2012
  • Ola Ojewumi Founder, Sacred Hearts Children’s Transplant Foundation and Project ASCEND

The United States has a new hero by the name of Gabby Douglas. Douglas stands as a graceful example of the power of perseverance and hard work. The nation stood galvanized by Douglass as she seized the gold medal in the Olympics women's all around individual competition.

At just sixteen years old, Douglas is setting the world ablaze with her breathtaking tumbles, flips, and twists. Unfortunately, Douglas is also making headlines for the large and negative public response to her hairstyle. A number African American bloggers and Twitter users took to social media to critique the gold-medalist's hairstyle of choice. Many of these critics describe Douglas' hair as un-kept and inappropriate for an Olympic champion.

The sad fact that the central focus of Douglas' history-making fleet has been diverted to her hair texture is problematic. As a result of the thickness and coarseness of African American hair, this type of hair is often deemed as undesirable. The subject of acceptable and unacceptable black hair remains a provocative issue, as Douglas fights back against these unfair standards of beauty.

Douglas has addressed the hair controversy by stating, "I just made history. And you're focusing on my hair? I just want to say, we're all beautiful inside out. I don't think people should be worried about that".

That is just it.

Why is the public concerned about her hair? Douglas is an acclaimed gymnast. Yet, as a woman, her value to society is being assessed through external criteria of beauty as opposed to her Herculean athletic abilities.

Douglas' strong defiance against the disapproval of her hair is a reflection of a burgeoning natural hair movement within the African American community. Thousands of African American students across the country are embracing the natural state of their hair, which is often considered unsuitable and unprofessional. Sadly, many of these women face the same condemnation that Gabby Douglass has endured. For decades, African Americans have utilized chemicals and other measures to alter the natural state of their hair to appeal to American standards of beauty.

The natural hair movement has begun and young African American women across the country are defining beauty on their own terms. As journalism major at the University of Maryland, Kara Dixon foresees a future in which her natural hair may serve as a hindrance. Dixon asserts, "I think [American standards of beauty have] caused African American women and men to think that our hair is not good enough and that we need to change it by using harmful chemicals".

These sentiments from Dixon describe the struggles of many African American women, including Douglas, who advocate for the acceptance of different types of beauty. This message of acceptance for who you are is apart of the precocious wisdom of Douglas. As a young woman, she serves as a positive role model for a countless number of young women who dare to say accept for what I am and who I am.

Acceptance is beauty.