Watching young Gabby Douglas win the gymnastics events was a beautiful and proud moment. And then I heard the negative comments about her hair. Black people are saying things like, "why don't she get her hair done?" For those who don't understand, don't worry about it because as Blacks say, "It's a Black thang." For those who are paying attention to Black history, you know that similar comments had a debut during the 60's with African Americans wearing what we called Naturals or Afros.
To hear this stuff today means some Black folks are still infected with self hate, and to use a popular term, still evolving. We also heard similar comments when the Williams sisters began playing tennis with the braids and the beads in their hair. Well, Gabby will be on the Corn Flakes box next month, signifying that she joins the millionaire class, and all those haters will be looking for a place in line to become her new BFF (best friend forever).
My advice to Gabby, and to those young people who have dreams like hers, keep going forward, and don't even look at or listen to any of the nay sayers. Or, to use a phrase from Maria Shrivers' little book, 'Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went out into the Real World', "When what I want is out of reach, I keep climbing until I get it." Another inspirational book by Joe Dudley, the founder of Dudley hair products, entitled, I am I can and I will, Walking By Faith, he dedicates a chapter to losing and how to deal with it. He calls it, Don't add Loss to Loss. He says in that chapter, "Life is a package deal. It comes with a fair share of gains and setbacks. Sometimes it's better to forfeit the fight than it is to keep at it. Sometimes the fight alone can do you more harm than the end result. By jeopardizing your positive, grateful spirit, for the sake of fighting, you're adding loss to loss.
The Shriver and Dudley theories may seem to be at odds with one another, but they are merely two sides to the same coin. For each crossroads you come to, you must analyze the two sides. I think of it being a Joe Louis moment, if it is a personal decision to determine whether to fight on and keep climbing or forfeit the fight. But if it's a crossroads, and the result could help change society and many others in the process, I call it a Rosa Parks moment.
As for being Black in America, times have changed so much from when I was a child to now. First of all we had basketball dream teams. But, Gabriel's didn't exist. Then we saw Dominique Dawes in the last Olympics as one of what was called The Magnificent Seven. Today's team is called The Fabulous Five, with Gabby as our champion.
We are from a generation that all pulled together to move Black America from the underclass to the middle class. The result is evident in the fact we have a Black President. In Michelle Norris' book, The Grace Of Silence, it is described as a time when "everywhere you turned, someone cheered you on —and not just family members. Everybody was in the same boat, rowing in the same direction, determined to get somewhere better, fast."
Today, there seems to be a race to the bottom for young blacks where the young men think it's cool to simulate thuggism, in style, in language, and dress, and the High School dropout rate has reached a new normal of 50% or less. The girls are doing a little better, but even they think it's cool to dress like street walkers and give birth to children of thugs. This does not bode well for the future.
In the meantime, I keep moving toward a better tomorrow while fighting the battles that we thought we had already won. Right now, I find myself working on an employment discrimination case and a major police case involving cops and the use of excessive force. The twist is that in these cases the parties can be Black on both sides, including in the discrimination case. Can we all say Hutu's and Tutsi' s of Rwanda? Many Police abuse cases involve cops of both races and young Black male victims who carry themselves in ways that make it easy for some cops to target. I call it dressing for arrest instead of dressing for success. Maybe it's better to forfeit the thug dress code.