In the span of two days, Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas went from America’s sweetheart to the butt of jokes across Twitter and Facebook - all because of her hair.
Winning gold as part of the Women's Team Final and Women's Individual All-Around Final, Gabby took America by storm.
Following her victories at the London games, the endorsements came rolling in. She landed on the cover of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and this week, she’s the feature story as she holds up her medals on the cover of PEOPLE magazine.
The fanfare over young Gabby was outstanding, including praises from A-list Hollywood celebrities tweeting her congratulations on the accomplishment of becoming the first black woman to win the Individual All-Around competition. All of it was heaven for the amazing 16-year-old.
But like all good things, the dark side of social media had to rear its ugly head, ending what was supposed to be a historic moment and steering the conversation to Gabby’s black hair.
Some comments about Gabby’s hair included nothing more than folks giving her a good ribbing over the disheveled do. But the jesting turned harsh as many forgot that Gabby is only 16 and forgot that they were cracking jokes on a kid.
Comedian Kevin Hart has born the brunt of criticism. And I understand comedians are always going to do their job. I’m a fan and I get it; but as a fan, I have a right to criticize.
Why do we, and I mean black people, have to resort to crude jokes; finding that one thing to latch onto when one of our own is propelled into the public eye?
Gabby’s hair has become the point of ridicule - not her achievement.
Gabby admitted herself that after winning both goals, now knowing everyone had their eyes on her, the pressure to perform grew heavy, which could have lead to her coming in 8th place in the Women's Uneven Bars Final and 7th place in the Women's Beam Final.
The chatter from Twitter and across the social media landscape only added pressure to Douglas' failure and it’s hard to ignore the ignorance, as Gabby is an avid Twitter user.
Only a few years ago, radio host Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of “nappy-headed hoes.” To be clear, I’m not comparing Hart to Imus. But now we find ourselves in the same realm with Gabby Douglas, and this time it’s coming from people her own color, which is shameful.
And I know many of you will hold my feet to the fire for blaming black people, but let's remember, Gabby’s only 16 and this is her first Olympics. I’m sure this isn’t the greeting she hoped for.
I realize that it wasn’t only black people making fun of Gabby’s hair, but you were the catalyst to the conversation. I hope in the future we are as quick to support as we are to mock.
There is a silver lining to Gabby-gate, between now and if or when she returns to the 2016 games in Rio, the conversation won’t be about her hair, but about all the endorsement money Gabby is sure to bank between now and then. Hopefully, her hair will be the least of anyone’s worries.
Shaka Griffith is the News/Politics Editor of GlobalGrind.com Follow him on Twitter @Darealshaka