Gabby Douglas entranced the world with her powerful, graceful and beautiful gymnastics, and brought two gold medals home. Most cheered. Some did not. Of those who didn’t, people making insults about her hair were included. Of those making insults about her hair, most were also Black people. And, in response, some Whites were quick to write articles, wag their proverbial fingers and place their proverbial hands on their proverbial hips in disappointment and dismay.
The negative comments made about her hair were rude. Especially disrespectful because they were from adult to teen, who most still view as a “kid” in a way. Willow receives the same kind of slander. Thus, I am not suggesting that Whites who found the comments rude are “wrong.” I am suggesting that White people have to stop behaving as if colourism and Black hair politics doesn’t include them…as if it did not start with them.
Colourism. Hair texture politics. How they connect to White supremacy, Eurocentric beauty myths and institutionalized racism. These are not arbitrary subjects for Which all Black people arbitrarily hate other Black people. Words such as quadroon, octaroon, the one drop rule and even race itself most certainly encapsulates a White experience as much as it does a Black one.
When primarily White judges are sentencing Black women who are light-skinned to shorter sentences than dark-skinned ones, colourism most certainly intersects with Whiteness. When Whites shake their fingers at Black people with internalized White supremacy issues, the ones that make them bash Gabby’s hair, yet turn around and deny job applicants with “ethnic” names, “ethnic” zip codes, or braids or locks, hair texture and Black culture most certainly intersects with Whiteness. What is colourism but hierarchical arrangement and beauty notions (and thereby goodness and intelligence notions) based on how close someone Black resembles someone White? The more White blood, the better? The longer the hair and the looser the curl or the straighter the hair, the better? Again, colourism and Black hair politics are not Black people being “arbitrarily” mean to other Blacks.
This doesn’t mean that Black people are not accountable for the cruel things that we say to each other, how we put each other down, or why we put each other down. It means White people need to think before admonishing and accept their role in the perpetuation of ideologies that support colourism and Black hair politics and the historical role of their existences in the first place. It means Black people have to evaluate why it was “funny” to bash a teenager (who is so excellent, one of the greatest among us, a name that will never be forgotten) in the first place. This legacy and reality of pain is forever tied between Whites and Blacks, and Whites do not have the room to shake a finger without thinking about why what disappoints them exists in the first place.