Victory at the London 2012 Olympics: Is It All About The Hair?

Well after a seven-month hiatus, I am returning to writing Crossroads.  I took time off to respond to major transitions in my life including the passing of my mother and refocusing my clinical work from the University of Washington to practice private.  The change in work now allows for time to provide healthcare to my beloved spouse, my Linda.

The death of my mother was a great loss to me.  She was one classy lady.  She passed away early this year on Valentine’s Day.   In her lifetime she saw the integration of African-American women and men in the armed forces (1948).  Furthermore she lived to observe African-American women achieve history by being first in various categories.  In the decades beginning from her birth (sunrise) to her death (sunset) she was able to observe the following achievements:

·    Otelia Cromwell, first African-American female to receive a doctoral degree from Yale University (1926)
·    Mary McLeod Bethune, first African-American to head a federal agency, National Youth Administration (1938)
·    Hattie McDaniel, first African-
American to win an Academy Award, Best Supporting Actress, Gone with the Wind (1940)
·    Leontyne Price, first African-American to appear in a telecast opera, the NBC’s predication of Tosca (1956)
·    Patricia Roberts Harris, first African-American woman Ambassador of the United States, Luxemburg (1965)
·    Shirley Chisholm, first African-American to campaign for the US presidency in a major political party and to win a US presidential primary,  Democratic Party New Jersey primary (1972)
·    Vanessa L. Williams, first African-American to win the crown of Miss America (1983)
·    Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American woman astronaut, Space Shuttle Endeavour (1992)
·    Condoleezza Rice, first African-American woman to be appointed National Security Advisor to the President of the United States (2001) and first African-American woman to be appointed Secretary of the US State Department (2005)
·    Michelle Obama, first African-American First Lady, wife of the first African-American President of the United States (2009)
Unfortunately, my mother did not live to see the 2012 London Olympic Games in which Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win the gold medal in the gymnastics category of “Women’s Individual All-Around Final.”
I know had she lived to see this great occasion, she would have been proud of Gabby.  She would have understood the challenges and sacrifices that this young woman made when in her early adolescence, she left her family and moved 1500 miles away to live with a Caucasian family to pursue her dreams of becoming an Olympic competitor.
My mother, in remembering sending her own children off to battle during the integration of white-only schools, would have understood the sacrifices and struggles Gabby’s mother had to endure so her daughter could attain a moment never before achieved by a female of her race.
Although my mother missed this great moment in history, I am glad she was not here to witness the embarrassing and shameful behavior of African-Americans who chose to humiliate Gabby by focusing not on her great achievement, but rather on downgrading her because of their “lack of satisfaction” with how she wore her hair.
My mother would have been shocked (as I and many others were) that people were focusing on Gabby’s perceived “bad hair” or “lack of hair grooming.”   Having resided in the southern United States, my mother would had chalked this up to “ugly, ignorant talk” and the ravings of “racist folk” attempting to keep a “hard working sista” down.
My mother’s face would have frozen in utter disbelief to find out that such negative ugly words and behavior came from African-Americans.   The question being asked by many is why?  Why would we engage in such behavior?
In discussions with African-Americans regarding this incident, I have heard opinions that the hair comments were ignorant, stupid and without class, etc., made by individuals who hide behind the anonymity of the internet and therefore they should be discounted.  Yet, the hair comments have served to emotionally wound one courageous woman and have the potential to hinder others who seek to follow their dreams and passions.
African-Americans historically have been under pressure to succeed.  We have fought for the right to serve and die in our nation’s military even if it meant the humiliation of serving in segregated units.  We have fought for the right to contribute and be represented in all sectors of American life and society.
Today’s generation of African-American youth represents past and present commitments to accept the challenge of “being the first”, “affirming the race” and “representing us” at all times.   Many of us are grateful and appreciative of these valuable commitments.
Regretfully, there will always be those who will look for the negative and search for reasons to put another person down instead of identifying the positive and lifting the person up.  Those who feast on the bandwagon of negative imagery will find the taste to be either bland or bittersweet.  Substance will always reveal beauty and character.
I know if my mother would have been alive to witness Gabby’s accomplishments, she would have embraced her and lifted her up as if she were her daughter.  Because she is.
She is our daughter, our sister and our Gabby.   We are extremely proud of her.
By the way, no, it is not all about the hair.  It is about commitment, hard work and dedication of the athlete, her family and her community.
It is about Gabby and her success.
Go Gabby go!!
Until the next Crossroads.

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