There I was, minding my own business, when Luvvie popped up in my g chat.
“Luvvie: you posting bout sheryl underwood or nah?
bella: girl…I literally just sighed so heavy
well i think on this issue, your voice is important
this is your domain.”
When I first started Afrobella, I felt that my voice on issues like this was important because there weren’t as many voices speaking out about natural hair ignorance. This was in a day before social media amplified everything, before there were so many blogs in the natural hair and black beauty space. And now, it’s so easy to make your voice heard. I know I’m not the only one who saw @SherylUnderwood’s mentions dissolve into mayhem this past weekend on Twitter, after this clip of her on The Talk made the rounds.
Basically, Sheryl Underwood revealed some embarrassing and unfortunate true colors, regarding her views on natural hair. Via Tracy Clayton at The Root:
“On an “encore presentation” of her CBS show The Talk that aired Aug. 30, Underwood railed against “nappy” “Afro” hair during a discussion about Heidi Klum saving her children’s hair after it had been cut. Klum’s children with ex-husband Seal have “huge Afros,” as she described them.
Upon hearing that Klum saves their hair, Underwood responded, “Why would you save Afro hair?” She went on to imply that nobody wants that type of hair, saying that you never hear of a woman in a hair shop asking for that “curly, nappy, beady” hair.
Co-host Sarah Gilbert chimed in, saying that she, too, sometimes saves her children’s hair, and Underwood interjected, saying that it was “probably some beautiful, long, silky stuff,” implying that that type of hair is desirable and worth saving. The only thing more hurtful than hearing those words was co-host Aisha Tyler’s silence and listening to the enthusiastic laughter of the audience, who, apparently, agreed.”
I watched the clip and all I felt was a kind of hollow, tired, resigned despair. Sheryl Underwood, sitting on the set of this daytime television show, parroting the same kind of rhetoric that Don Imus and D.L Hughley have spouted before. There’s a deeper sting to it, coming from a black woman whose own natural hair would be that texture. Her disdain is palpable. The dismissiveness in her laugh says it all.
What do you do with a mind that seems so closed?
I see a response like this, and my instant response is to write off the person. Many are calling for a boycott of Sheryl Underwood’s work. I’ve read some brilliantly ferocious posts about Sheryl’s stupidity. These were my favorites:
Sheryl Underwood Calls Afro Hair ‘Nasty,’ Wonders Why Mothers Save Baby’s First Clippings by Denene Miller of My Brown Baby
Sheryl Underwood Needs To Shush by Kyra Kyles for Jet Magazine.
Those posts said everything I wanted to say with righteous, eloquent fury.
At this point, Sheryl Underwood has been told about herself in a thousand different ways. She has been read to filth on Twitter, and not everyone stuck to the issue at hand. Some of the tweets hurled her way had a really ugly tone. There’s little that you can say about Sheryl Underwood that she hasn’t made a joke about herself in the course of her career, but in reading the tweets directly addressed to her, I found myself getting as defensive as I imagine she’d have felt. People calling her Wesley Snipes and Geraldine and making comments about her hair texture and her skin color. People calling her a “coon” and even worse. Just going IN, claws out and teeth bared. Bringing the discourse right down to the playground.
When that happens, what kind of message are we sending? Will she learn anything from any of this? I’m asking because many of us have someone in our lives who thinks like Sheryl Underwood. Many of us have a relative or an old friend or that nice lady at church or the office, who still adheres to the sad belief that afro hair isn’t beautiful or worth saving. And there might be a vocal number of us speaking up in outrage, but there are many others who sat, watched, laughed heartily and mmmmhmmmed their agreement with what Sheryl Underwood expressed in that moment. I think what could be a teachable moment for Sheryl Underwood, could also be a teachable moment for many.
Curly Nikki got access to Sheryl Underwood and posted an interesting Q&A interview – click here to read that. Nikki did her best to reach Sheryl with probing questions meant to spark self-realizations, and time and time again she came up against a defensive response. This morning Sheryl Underwood apologized on air on The Steve Harvey Show. You can hear the emotion in her voice during that clip. Sheryl sounds shook. It’s easy to say that her apology is more than likely based on her fear of career jeopardy, and losing her existing fan base. But I’m really hoping it’s deeper than that.
Sheryl said some of the things you might expect. That she “messed up.” She “made a mistake” and a “bad choice of words.” “I’m not perfect and I bet if you put a camera on someone all day, they’d eventually say something they’d regret too.”
There’s always more to say, but there’s only so much you can say.
It sounded like true remorse in Sheryl Underwood’s voice during her interview, and I’m hoping the remorse leads to introspection. Hopefully she got the message and she’ll let it absorb. Hopefully this is the beginning of a mental evolution – not just for Sheryl Underwood, but for the women who think like she does about natural hair, too.
How do you reach Sheryl Underwood, and the Sheryl Underwoods of the world? Do you think that she’s learned from her experience here?