There was an error in this gadget

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's Talk About the "N" Word

Taken in 2009
Are you offended when someone refers to your hair as "nappy" or are you one of those "happy to be nappy" folks?

Personally, I don't necessarily embrace the word although I love my "My Hair is Nappy My Life is Straight" t-shirt.  I embrace that shirt primarily because of the message it sends.  People tend to think that wearing your hair naturally is supposed to complicate your life, so I love the powerful message of the shirt, which plays on the word "nappy."  

There's no doubting the power in the texture
I also understand that many people do not intend to be offensive, but use the word to describe the 4 a/b/c texture.  Some naturals who chose to avoid the word, use "kinky," "curly," or "coily" to describe this texture.  However, I recognize that a lot of non-natural people would not recognize my texture as "curly" (they probably would laugh at the thought!) and coily is a word that was introduced to me by the natural hair community, so I'm sure they wouldn't use that word either. Additionally, "kinky" is often used to describe "kinky twists," which I'm not wearing, so what's left?  Nappy.  When my mother talks about nappy hair, she's referring to the texture and that's the only way she knows how to describe it.  How can I get mad at that especially when that was how I used to describe my own hair?  Now, I can give my mother a list of PC words to use in place of "nappy," but I don't feel the need.  I understand what she means and I take that approach with others who use the word to describe the texture.

On the other hand, there are people who use the word in an offensive way and follow it up with a strong suggestion for you to straighten or relax it.  I'm not a fan of combating ignorance with ignorance, so unless that person catches me at a bad time, then I try to be sophisticated and strong and let them know that I love my hair as is and have no intentions of changing it.  With that said, I'm human, so if they catch me at a bad time, then they get what they get!  LOL

What are your thoughts on the word "nappy"?  


20 comments:

  1. Haha! I love this!

    Funny thing is when I was relaxed and it was time a touch up I referred to my hair as NAPPY all the time, but when I went natural the word has a new meaning to me and when I hear it, it makes me cringe.

    When I hear it now I feel the need to defend my hair because I know how kinky it naturally is and how much time and patience it takes to manage it and keep it from being "nappy".

    When I work so hard to keep it from being "nappy" I don't want to hear anyone call my hair "nappy". My hair is thick and detangled-you better recognized detangled hair when you see it!!! LOL

    www.KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not a fan of the N word. I have a caucasian male co-worker, who is constanly asking me why my hair isn't growning. I tell him my hair is growing, but since it is so curly it just keeps curling up. His response, oh so you mean it's nappy. He has done this at least 3 times and in front of other people and I find it very offensive. Luckily his last day was last Thursday, so I won't have to deal with that anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Jenell - Interesting. So you think of "nappy" hair as being "tangled" hair. I always thought of it as referring to the texture since I didn't have "good hair." I had "nappy hair."

    @Anonymous - The fact that it's a Caucasian male adds another layer of complexity to it IMO. However, they know even less about black hair then we do, so although that comment would probably offend me too. I would probably step back and try to figure out what he meant by it. I once heard one of my favorite news anchors refer to another white guy as having nappy hair. Honestly, I don't think he intended to be offensive, but he was referring to the hair being curled up. His comment made me stop dead in my tracks, but I can alter my feelings based on my perception of people's intentions.

    Thanks for your comments!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I hate the word. It was not created to praise our tight curls. It was created to demean our hair and make it seem inferior because it was not straight like Caucasian hair (can be.) The fact that Black people or anyone else for that matter still use the word is appalling. A word that contributed so greatly to pain and embarrassment in our race should not be embraced in my opinion. I have a difficult time embracing the word when it has such a negative derivation. But I suppose it is something like the other N word. It was created to demean us, but now we are actually embracing it, calling each other "my N." *Shrugs.* I plan on doing a post about this N word as well. Hopefully I can do some more research on its origin.



    precious-curls.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Precious - thanks for commenting. I agree that this word and the other N word should not be embraced, but obviously my point of view regarding whether it is offensive is in the minority! ;-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I did not hear or understand the meaning of *either* of the N-words until I was in my teens and learned about them via books on the Black experience in the US (I am the daugther of Nigerian immigrants). I understand both of the N-words to be negative and thusly regard them as such. I have a big problem with folks "embracing" words that were historically (and presently) used to demean and harass people of African descent. I don't think it's possible to reclaim a word. I don't need the negative energy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Mangomadness - What a blessing to not have experienced that at a younger age! Your comment actually helps me clarify my point of view. In my experience, the word nappy was used to describe a texture that wasn't considered "good." That still doesn't make it a word that we should embrace, but it doesn't get under my skin like the other "n" word that was thrown out freely and randomly to degrade and demean. I've been called a N-word when someone wanted to put me down or piss me off. If I had that experience with the word nappy, I would probably feel differently. "Nappy" was only used that way, in my experience, by school age children who also referred to being black and being dark-skin as negative things since the mark of beauty was supposed to be light skin and good hair. That was pure ignorance since beautiful black people come in all skin tones and hair types.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can't stand this word. Even when I use to relax my hair I didn't use this word. It always sounded "ugly" to me.
    I use to work at this warehouse where it was mostly men and there was this guy (black) and he was like the funny guy of the job. Well this one night I guess I was the chosen one for the butt of his jokes. He started off by asking me why do I wear my hair like that and he proceeded to point to a woman with relaxed hair and tell me that I NEEDED to fix my hair like her's because my hair was NIGGA NAPPY! In general I'm very understanding when people make ignorant statements to me and I gently correct them but this night this guy and everybody that found it funny felt my fury. I don't use either one of those N-words and I sure can't stand for somebody else to refer to me as that either.

    My friends who relaxed their hair always refer to their hair as being nappy when they need a touch up. I asked them if their hair is nappy, what do they consider my hair and they always respond, " Natural, there is a difference."

    ReplyDelete
  9. It doesn't really matter to me, because I know that whoever's saying it lacks education--because only people who are ignorant about natural hair will call someone else's hair "nappy." The only reason some naturals are "happy to be nappy" is to combat that ignorance. And besides, no one has been brave enough to call my hair nappy.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Anonymous - The guy at your job was being ignorant. That would piss me off too. Interesting that your friends would see a different between natural and nappy. I would think that a lot people would see those two as being synonymous. Thanks for sharing a different perspective.

    @Khadejah - LOL @ brave enough. I hear that!

    Thanks Kelly!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't like the word at all. When the word first started being used years and years ago, people said it to you in a negative way. It wasn't something to be proud of. So just why try to embrace it?

    Natural-hair-care-info.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Dominique - Thanks for commenting. I'm not advocating embracing the word. I'm just saying that for me, the word itself doesn't bother me unless the person using it is trying to be offensive. My mother referred to my hair as nappy when describing the texture. Is that the best word to use? No. Does it offend me when someone use it that way? No. Now that I've been educated by the natural hair community, there are many other words that I would use to describe my texture rather than nappy, but it doesn't rub me the wrong way like the other n-word.

    When I was little, school-age kids would use the word "nappy" to be offensive just like they would use the words "dark" or "black" to be offensive. Those words were fighting words back in the day due to our lack of knowledge. Today, I'm not offended by any of them because I'm in a different place now. I have knowledge now and self-awareness that I didn't have before. Personally, I look to understand people's perspective and intention before I react. That's just my way, but I'm not telling anyone else how they should view the word. Based on the comments, I'm obviously in the minority with my point of view and that's okay too. Just because we all have natural hair doesn't mean with have to like-minded :-)

    Thanks again to everyone posting comments. You all are giving me a different perspective on this subject and I truly appreciate all view points!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Greetings!
    www.treasuredspotbookreviews.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Funny, I don't necessarily have a problem with the word nappy. My sons use it to describe our hair and I have no problem with it because it wasn't meant negatively. But outsiders definitely cannot. I don't let it affect me too much though. it could be just me...

    ReplyDelete
  15. I don't like the word and I have always wondered why we as black people hang onto words which were used to demean us. We are created in God's image, it is only mankind that likes to do that. It is a word, that I do not use to describe my hair.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love seeing different points of views - thanks ladies for sharing your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  17. IMO, it's just a word, like the other N-word. Neither offends me, although I do like "nappy" because it's just so much fun to say. I've never heard it used negatively, other than by a few disgruntled older relatives who think I'm crazy for embracing the fro. I always thought of it as simply another texture. My hair isn't naturally kinky, nor is it curly, nor is it coiled - it's nappy and juicy and lovely. Merriam-Webster online defines nap as "a hairy or downy surface (as on a fabric)" - which is pretty accurate. My hair resembles fine wool, and nappy as having many tight bends or curls - also quite accurate. So, no problems with the word here, but to each her own.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Candy - thanks for sharing your thoughts! This post generated a lot of discussion and I enjoyed reading everybody's comments. I agree - "to each her own." As I get older and learn more, I realize there are very few areas of black and white, but many areas of gray, so I respect everyone's point of view.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've noticed that I am back and forth, with my feelings on the word? I mostly avoid it and use the word Kinky when I can, because I've always experienced it being used in a negative light. But I have noticed when relaxed ladies use it to describe their new growth,and I'm sitting there with a full head of it, I'm like okay so what does that make my hair? Someone actually told me that it was different because my natural hair was nourished and healthy, and that their new growth was dry, hard, and unmanagable. *sigh* I try to help them out, but it is a state of mind that you have to be in.. I guess overall, I really don't care for the word, but I am not always offended by it.. It just depends on the person's motive.

    ReplyDelete