It seems to me that all of us should be standing to celebrate the achievements of young Gabby Douglas, a recent gold medal winning Olympic gymnast, instead of being concerned about her hair, or her mother’s finances. I am sure that most people who have paid attention to the conversation about Douglas’ hair have been as dumbfounded as I have been about it. Along with the hair criticism is what appears to be an inordinate concern about her mother’s finances and whether or her father is a deadbeat dad.
Though it is newsworthy to report that she has achieved in spite of great obstacles because we are always glad to see people make great strides when it seems all decks are stacked against them. But to have so much information about her parents and comments about her hair and so little about the youngster herself seems to be very indicative of the manner in which we allow ourselves to be ruled by the sensational.
For instance, it seems that most of us would want to learn more about Douglas. We might like to know how she was able to live hundreds of miles from her family in order to train for the Olympics, what are her dreams, if she has hobbies, how she sees the world or what gives her courage.
It is important to note that most of the hair criticism came from African Americans and simply serves as a reminder that we still have miles to go before claiming true liberation from the internalization of oppression that continues to foster an obession about hair.
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Some of you will remember the marvelous movie, “Good Hair” made a few years ago by Chris Rock where there was an in-depth look into the concerns with hair that exist among African Americans.
In this era when we are faced with so many challenging issues, and when young people of color, in particular and young people in general, are having a very difficult time finding their way, we should not have a high achieving athlete being criticized because she does not look as if she just left the beauty parlor after winning two Olympic gold medals.
What happened to the capacity to be delighted that this young woman set a world record and that she models behavior that it would be great for many more young people to practice? What about focusing upon the quality of character that is reflected by a person who has the capacity to be disciplined enough to become the kind of athelete that she is today? What about celebrating the possibility that she has of being a role model to all of us and especially to young people?
In the final analysis, all of us need to step up to the challenge of looking for the positive in as many places as we can find it and speaking as often as we can about the good that we see in the world.
While Gabby Douglas is an outstanding young athelete, there are thousands of children going about their daily lives trying to find a path that will lead them forward in their journeys. They need all of the support that can be given to them. Adults need to take them and their challenges seriously, and we need to be very careful about the manner in which we speak about our youth and the ways in which we relate to them. We cannot afford to stay on this path of negativity and irreverence for almost everything.
It is not benefiting any of us, and it is certainly not going to serve the young people among us who are often searching for ways to see the world and are looking for places to stand as they travel on their life’s path. Let’s seek to celebrate our youth in every possible way.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at email@example.com.