When Are Folks Going To Apologize To Sheryl Underwood?

September 18, 2015  |  

It’s great that Sheryl Underwood went on national television and begged the Black community for forgiveness, but my question is when is the community going to apologize to her?

What I mean is that earlier this week, Underwood sat with her co-hosts on The Talk and apologized again for comments she made previously about natural Black hair. More specifically, in 2013, Underwood called model and “Project Runway” host Heidi Klum’s decision to save clippings of her biracial children’s hair as a personal keepsake, “nasty.” And she also said:

I’m sorry, but why would you save afro hair? You can’t weave in afro hair. You will never see us at the hair place like, look here what I need is this curly, nappy, beaded…that just seems nasty.”

Naturally, folks were upset about those comments. Although Underwood had apologized twice before, she opted to do it again on Monday, but this time adding a little dramatic flare.

She not only apologized and explained how she had learned some things about herself since then, but she appeared on the show without a wig or a weave on. That’s right: she did a big natural hair reveal, which at this point is becoming a pretty trite film and television plot device.

I know. That’s shady, but somebody had to say it…

Anyway, what’s interesting about her apology to the community is that she also took the opportunity to talk about the cold reception she received after making that horrible joke.  On the show, she said that she was called names like “coon,” “Uncle Tom” and “HN,” which is the TV-appropriate language for calling someone a “house negro.”

Underwood said that while she was personally hurt by the words, she also understood the hurt feelings behind them. In particular, feelings of betrayal for talking bad about natural Black hair on a show with an audience of predominately White people.

But while Underwood may get it, I don’t quite understand why any of that was okay. In fact, I don’t even know why she felt the need to apologize to the Black community at all.

Granted, it was an awful joke. But what is even more awful is that this is how Underwood not only felt about Black hair in general, but her natural hair specifically.

Still, I too remember the reaction she received. In fact, I wrote a piece about it. And in addition to calling her a “coon” and “HN,” she was also called “black gorilla” and told she looked like Wesley Snipes. And many of those comments came out of the mouths of other Black people.

I said then about those racial comments:

It seems like Underwood is not the only one here with some internalized hate. I wish I could say that these have been isolated comments, but these reactions have pretty much been noticeably consistent since the start of the controversy. And it’s not just Twitter. I have been reading some severe dirt-dragging based solely on Underwood’s looks throughout the blogosphere. It’s quite interesting that those, who in their defense of natural hair, are using such racially charged and inflammatory language as “monkey,” and “gorilla” or making fun of her black gums (which likely is caused from having excess melanin in the skin) and comparing her features to that of a man.”

Was Underwood wrong for the joke? She sure was. Did she need to be checked? Yes. But we should also keep in mind, Underwood likely held those negative feelings about her hair because of a long history of people judging her based on her hair texture as well as the color of her skin. And I am willing to bet that some of those judgments were just as nasty and vile as what was said to her in “defense” of natural hair.

And although it is very honorable that she has once again addressed those comments, she needs to stop apologizing and making excuses for those folks who called her such vile things. And instead, folks need to be flooding her mentions with apologies of their own.

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