Why we need to support Gabby Douglas

I’m reading the insults online and I truly can’t believe it. Here is this extraordinary young woman, Gabby Douglas, who has worked SO very hard to achieve something that most can only ever dream about. She’s beautiful, full of poise and potential, an exceptional athlete, and people are taking pot shots at her. From her hair to her perceived lack of patriotism to innocently sitting in the stands, this young lady is being attacked. And it is NOT okay. Not even a little bit. Racist, misogynistic, bigotry always needs to be challenged. Hence this feature.

If you haven’t seen the drama yet, here it is in a nutshell.

According to ESPN gabby_douglas_1many people took to Twitter and Facebook — and sadly, many of them were African-American women — to denigrate Douglas because her hairdo apparently wasn’t up to some people’s standards.

Yes she was criticised by other sisters… for her natural hair.

She was targeted online after she failed to put her hand over her heart as the national anthem played when the U.S. gymnastics team won a gold medal Aug. 9. She later apologized. (I wish she wouldn’t have.)

Later, supposed fans began calling her “Crabby Gabby” after she didn’t stand up when her teammates won silver and gold medals.


In an interview after she placed 7th on the uneven bars, Douglas talked with reporters, who of course asked her about the negative comments on social media.

I tried to stay off the Internet because there’s just so much negativity,” an emotional Douglas said. “Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [during the gold medal ceremony] or I look depressed…It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It’s been kind of a lot to deal with.

Moments after leaving the press conference, Gabby Douglas quietly walked away, put herself in the corner, and cried.

When they talk about my hair or not putting my hand over my heart or being very salty in the stands, really criticizing me … for me it was really hurtful,

 Did I choose my hair texture? No. I’m grateful for having this hair on my head. When you read that hurtful stuff you’re like ‘OK, wow.

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Gabby Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, correctly described her daughter’s treatment as “bullying,” telling Reuters,

She’s had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn’t smiling enough, she’s unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your teammates. Now you’re ‘Crabby Gabby.

Hawkins added:

You name it and she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?

As much as I believe social media can do ‘good’ – it also has a dark side. Far too often it’s aimed at Black women – Black women who don’t ‘act’ the way others think they should. Remember when dear Michelle Obama was criticised for her muscular arms/talking about slaves building the White House/generally being too ‘cool’, or when Leslie Jones was recently slammed online for her role in Ghostbusters? It’s all about Black women who don’t act/look/behave the way the world thinks they should. Hyper-criticisms from ALL races against, you guessed it, Black women.

I can’t shake my head enough. Speaking of enough… enough of this hatred and shame. Enough of the hair insults and shaming of a young girl. What’s wrong with you all that you think that’s EVER okay?

What I love out of all this – and yes there IS something to love – is the indomitable spirit of Gabrielle Douglas. We need to celebrate her accomplishments, not only in her pursuit of Olympic Gold, but how she has handled all this harsh criticism. w_g_douglas_kh_800

When you go through a lot and you have so many difficulties and people against you sometimes, it kind of just determines your character. Are you going to stand or are you going to crumble? I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympic team. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been teaching me a lot.

You’ve been teaching us a lot Miss Douglas. We’re proud of you for standing and not crumbling. We’re with you. This criticism against you is unfair and dangerous and rooted in hatred. You do us proud by standing with your head up – and we are with you.