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I received this writing today from someone who represents me and my values and African American heritage. I would like to share it with my colleagues who have issues when i don’t “match them”. Keep in mind the thoughts are coming from a very educated intelligent group of potential consumer group. We have often been offended which is a serious ASHA code of ethics violation. Enjoy this important article:
By Sandra Finley
There is a plausible explanation for much of the silly commentary and unwarranted stress prompted by self-appointed hair mavens who did not like the ponytail that the delightful Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas wore during her history making Olympic victory. The experience of multi-generational racist persecution, even in the face of our success, usually causes us to redouble our efforts to strive and take pride in achievement. Occasionally, though, the unrelenting waves of societal rejection trigger an aberrant behavior in some wherein they fixate on how not to trigger the vicious jaws of the “You’re still not good enough” trap.
The irony is that we hurt each other when we allow hateful noises and cruelly narrow standards of fashion and beauty to bind and bruise our children. You know the hateful noises that I mean. They cut like lashes across our backs. The noises try to convince us that our beautiful achievements are not real because we are not beautiful. The noises scream that our hair, skin, lips and curves are not beautiful.
Because we have a history of being resisted in every kind of mainstream setting, our defensive body armor has become the fine art of trying to manage the dysfunctional attitudes of others about how they feel about the way we look. We dedicate extreme and expensive focus on grooming to feel safe, accepted and to help us carry the unfair burden of helping others feel safe being around us.
While 17-year-old Gabby leapt into history, helping to catapult the U.S. Olympic team to an all-around gold medal for the first time since 1996, her critics stumbled into the trap, prompting them to whip out their hateful checklists and tweet that, even in the light of her achievement, they did not like the style of her pony tail and hair pin placement.
Remember the early criticism the First Lady received over sporting a pony tail while working on the campaign? Some people only felt comfortable calling Michelle Obama beautiful after the mainstream media said it first. Check. Others withheld judgment about then presidential candidate Obama’s “fineness” until after he appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine in dark shades. That’s the moment, replete with the accoutrements of power and status, that tipped the scales into the “fine” zone that we dared anybody to say that he wasn’t. He’s got swag. Check and double check.
For Black women, living globally outside Africa, finding multicultural recognition of our beauty has always been entirely too hard. At a League of Black Women Global Leadership Conference, a discussion about how stereotypic images of African American women in the media taint professional opportunity revealed the full weight of the burden we bear. Reluctant social acceptance of us, influenced by cultural attitudes about our hair, actually erodes our economic viability. In 2010, women in all occupations earned 81.2 percent of men’s earnings; that number was 69.6 percent for Black women, according to Census data. (Read more in the Risk and Reward research study on the LBW Web site at
On the credit side of the life experience ledger, we can account for substantive achievements such as advanced degrees, business ownership, community service and herculean career performance. On the debit side, we endure checks against us that force a focus on masking our distinctive race characteristics, styling ourselves, sometimes, to the point of distortion. We wear the mask of the majority population’s preferred business attire. Check. We constantly modulate and adjust the very sound of our voices to connect with other people, using our genius for tone, diction and dialect adjustments. Check. We bob and weave and wear defensive armor against the social rejection that we know will spring up and drag us down should we dare to appear in public sans the right of safe passage that hanging hair is supposed to guarantee. Check.
This kind of coping against insanity to save our sanity is illogical and puts us at risk of invalidating the wealth in the diversity of our authentic selves. It can cause us to be blind to our own excellence and intolerant of the sweet and the salt of the sweat equity that soars to Olympic gold, changes the world and curls our roots.
For what Gabby has achieved, the next check coming to her and her family (both families) from our community should be a blank check for all the love and admiration that we can give.
Sandra Finley is President and CEO of the League of Black Women and the League of Black Women Global Research Institute
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