Aug16

PUBLIC OPINION: Black Female Athletes with Natural Hair

This is my little gymnast šŸŽ€AšŸŽ€

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She’s 8 years old and has been a gymnast for 3 years now and never tires or complains about the grueling schedule although, mommy sometimes gets tired.

Right now she’s training for 4 hours a day for 5 days a week as a level 4 gymnast according to the USAG standards. During the school year, the schedule is just as time consuming and I am thankful that’s she’s an academic whiz and has always been nearly 2 years ahead of her peers academically.

She discovered the great gymnast like Dominique Dawes ON HER OWN through research after her daddy told her he had a crush on her when he was growing up. She introduced me, Mommy to Gabby Douglas. I watched her study Gabby and become ignited by the drive and dedication she witnessed from a girl just like her. I was encouraged as I watched this little gymnast become so determined and taking the steps to learn about her craft instead of bragging about her new found abilities and skills. She’s humble. Gabby’s mother inspired me to make a way out of no way to support my little girl and to trust God to provide for her training cost!

I recently decided to STOP nagging her about putting lotion on her legs before gymnastics practice because after 4 hours of training and pushing herself on the bars (her most difficult event) she comes out covered from head to every dark skinned toe in chalk dust. The evidence of her hard work!

As I drove home one day feeling bad for fussing at her about not evenly applying the lotion on her skin properly I thought, “the last thing she’s worried about as she hurls herself around those bars is how her skin looks and feels.” I felt crummy for making her feel crummy for not doing as my mother had taught me. She’s not me and I definitely didn’t have the guts to be who she is at 8 years old! Now I DO IT FOR HER and tell her how amazingly BRAVE she is while I am doing it.

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She’s one of the few black girls at her gym and is honestly loved by ALL the team members surely for who she is. She’s lovable and I think I am probably the only one who has ever made a comment about her hair when she’s finished one of those grueling trainings.

Saying, “YOUR HAIR IS A MESS!” Then proceeding to pick little specks from the pit from it saying, “What were you doing in there?” One day, her eyes lowered and her lips turned to a frown and I thought, “What’s wrong with you Sherrie?”

I had to check myself yet again and ask myself where I found these unrealistic expectations that I was now impressing upon my 8 year old athlete. I’ve never done the things she does in that gym. I have never had the courage to push my body to the limit that she has for the pass 3 years. I admire ALL gymnast of ALL ages because THEY ARE STRONG.

In that moment after I managed to bruise my child’s esteem yet again because her ponytail wasn’t as tight and shiny after 4 hours of training (her edges were poofy just as God intended them to be) I decided to examine my thoughts and my actions to STOP asking her to meet an expectation for how she should look that was definitely NOT attainable for what she loved to do, gymnastics (legs shiny and neat hair).

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After a long gymnastic meet; poofy hair and tired.

So what WAS wrong with me and now what feels like the rest of the world? Why haven’t people had the same or similar moment that I had? Why do we feel so entitled to tell these athletes of color how they should look or what their hair is suppose to look like after catapulting through the air…. REALLY… catapulting through the air!

Former Miss Black USA , Ocielia Gibson said something profound via Twitter,
“If you were mad about Gabby’s hair in 2012…& you’re mad about it AGAIN in 2016…that’s not her lack of growth, but yours.”

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We need to grow up. Have a personal revelation about our words and how they affect others no matter how old they maybe or what they have done. This sense of being entitled to an ill perspective or public point of view and opinion has become well… Mean.

It hurts when one person is mean to me. So to have thousands of them sending mean words and vibes your way can’t feel particularly good or have you want to be in a place of gleeful joy. Not everyone has the ability to shake words off immediately or erase them from their memory once they’ve been mindlessly spoken. It takes time to heal wounds that words create. So Miss Douglass shouldn’t have to apologize for simply standing and listening to the national anthem nor should she have to explain what she was feeling as she sat and clapped for her teammates opposed to standing.

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Maybe we should explain what’s eating us to the point that we publicly humiliate others. I’ll start… I was selfish! As I nitpicked about the lotion on my gymnast’s skin and the poofiness of her hair after training I was more concerned about what people would think about the type of parent I was instead of considering how she felt and what she was actually accomplishing while working her butt off in that gym for 4 hours!!! I was selfish and not-so-nice nor considerateĀ to my child as a result. An apology, I have given and now publicly shouting, “I’m sorry baby.”

I imagine that frown I caused to come across my little girl’s face a million times, every time someone comments about our Olympian Gabby.

Just like I found the error of my ways, apologized and relinquished unreal expectations and borderline mean behavior, the rest of us need to consider doing the same. Search, search for the reason for your ill sense of entitlement for public opinion.

 

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Follow @LittleGymnastA on Instagram to see her growth as a little athlete and encourage her to keep striving towards her passion to make her own mark on the world as a skilled athlete. To support the goal to have her fully funded for one year of training as a gymnast please use theĀ linkĀ below. Ā Also, if you think this makes senseĀ please use the methods to share below.Ā 

https://www.gofundme.com/fm3q5etq

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