Thursday, October 04, 2007

The "N" Word

Don Imus. Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. Al Sharpton. Women's Organizations.

Say all these names together and you will think of the telecast that featured Don Imus and those three words that turned into an outrage that equaled "We're Mad As Hell and We're Not going to Take it Anymore".

Women's Groups all around the country jockeyed for position, calling it sexist most of all. That these women, future leaders in their own professions, were subjected to the crude comments of an antiquated jockey, who, albeit a shock jock, had crossed the Mason - Dixon line and had entered into a territory of warfare.

Al Sharpton & Co. were also in the mix indicating that NOT only were they offended and angry, they wanted Imus to apologize. Others called for (and subsequently received), his job on a platter bigger than the one that carried the head of John the Baptist.

Those Three Words. The words that shocked and angered everyone into a frothy tizzy.

But to most black women, there was only one word we heard.


The word that has been used in anger, teasing, jokes, sadness, envy, and even pride. The word that chases many women around for being "too black" and haunts other black women for not being "black enough". This is the word that the word Jheri, California, "S", and even Soul Glo were able to mask. This was the word, used in the very self absorbed, non "free to be me" 1980's that distinguished who was good looking, and who WASN'T. And we can't say it was perpetuated by men, I'm NOT going to go there. Some of the worst offenders of this came from women. You can't imagine how many women I've heard be concerned about what kind of HAIR their children are going to have. Exactly where does that come from?

I can tell you myself, when I was communicating what Don Imus said to many of my girlfriends, mostly all of them said with a loud resonating voice "Who was he calling NAPPY?"

It's a word, even know, if used in comedy, or even as a timeclock to you knowing it's time for you to get your hair done, means something to most black women. It means something is WRONG. It means something is askew. It means "fix it". AND, if you think that we have gotten past it, think again. . . Listen in on any descriptive conversation of a generation Y-or Z-er for a rude awakening. . .

Authentically speaking, I can't say that I was ever the target of that word, but I can tell you that I heard it enough in passing, describing hair textures for both boys AND girls. One of my self absorbed, narcisisstic friends, now even compares her son's hair to others, and the word "good" and "bad" come out of her mouth on the regular.

Not as vicious in adulthood (but still prevalent) as it was in childhood, the word Nappy generates images of people unhappy with the skin (or hair, for that matter) that they are in, and equally as bad, the notion that the hair shaft is tightly wound and requires more treatment to manage, versus straight, signifies something in a culture that has always has to fight - for an identity and everything else. It signifies something for a culture - a culture that had to be created from the legacy that was originally stripped from them.

There is no clearly defined texture of what represents us - be it Afro-Cuban, Black American, Honduras, Boricua, French-Canadian (Creole), Blasian, or any combination thereof. It represents all of us, and neither should it be a reason to envy or love one more than the other, especially for something that delves into the minutia of determining what is 'good' and what is 'bad' as it relates to hair texture.

So, let your soul glo. . . .

What are Your Thoughts?


smoothie said...


If I had a dollar Every time I heard the followin phrase "So and so has that good hair. If we had kids then I know my kids hair would be good" I could retire from my job for life.

We as a people are obsessed with our hair.
When we hear Nappy, unless we rock Neo-Soul, wear Earth tones, and eat low fat or vegetarian, we always assume the worse. You can't just be "Nappy" that to many is disprespectful to us as a whole.

Personally, I look at Nappy as one of our words that migrated its way over. I hear many none melalin people using it. I do realize that its hurtful, but not as much as that other N word.

P said...

@ Smoothie:

LMAO @ Neo-Soul, wear Earth tones, and eat low fat or vegetarian.

HAHAHA. You got that right! Ain't that the truf. . . .

That Girl Tam said...

I am MAD that you said Afro-Cuban...and you know

But before I go on any further, I HAVE to say, "LONG LIVE CREAMY CRACK!"

I've been told for most of my life that I had "good hair" and I never really understood what that meant while growing's just HAIR - some of us have it and some of us don't. My first experience with someone with umm...kinky hair, I think I was in college.

She worked with me and made a comment about her hair being nappy and I swore that it wasn't because it looked straight...well straight enough...and then she took my hand and put it at the nape of her neck.

::blank stare::

It felt like a brillo pad up under there. I was in shock. Call me ignorant, but folks can't help the kinda hair they're born with. I think Don Imus offended me more with calling those girls HOES...altough we know by using the word NAPPY, he meant they were black - but he didn't have to call them HOES. That's just me...

I have naturally curly hair and I hate it. Plus the texture of my hair has changed a lot over the years. My mother started relaxing my hair as a child because she hated the task of combing out my hair when wet...and she was deathly afraid of letting me swim knowing that combing out elbow length hair would take AT LEAST an hour.

Believe "good hair" ain't always what's it's cracked up to be.

P said...

@ Tam:

If you noticed, in my post, I mentioned that there are people who think that their hair is 'Not good enough', or in the instance like you, 'not black enough'

I am well aware of the pitfalls, if I may say, of people feeling a certain way, (whether that's a good way, or a shameful way, or somewhere in between) of having the extremes of either texture. And their are extremes of both.

Miz JJ said...

I hear more black people using the term nappy head than anyone else. Especially dark skin black men. I don't know anymore. I do know that even when people say the word nappy I cringe even if does not pertain to me. It makes me angry that we don't love ourselves. You get flack from all sides. I am going to do a post on hair about my recent experiences in the states and at work. Good post P.

Lāā said...

I just went through the transition to natural from a perm. Now I don't mind being called nappy. It's a shame that most black folks can't accept what they were born with. I was offended by 'nappy' and 'hoes' because it was meant to be an insult.

There was a 'naptural' blog that I was reading and the lady said that someone told her natural niece that her hair looked like 'coochie' hair. After I stopped laughing I thought about the fact that most teens probably don't remember what their natural hair looks like.

Aunt Jackie said...

my family having deep roots in the south has proudly had every inappropriate conversation about hair and skin tone known to man and then some...

what first comes to mind is a story my great aunt told me of the first time she met her aunts, who were full blooded, non english speaking native americans with hair down to their auntie said it changed her life, cuz she thought it meant they were white and might have babies with good hair.

my mother's father's blue eyed creole clan makes no bones about telling folks to watch out for making babies with them nappy heads, and to them it's just as normal as waking up in the morning.

The ramifications of slavery are deep, because the euro standard of beauty was to socio economic divide as well. Which is to say light skinned folks with good hair have eaten better for lack of a better word for many generations.

happy to be nappy, i wore my hair natural for years an although it may not be what others define as nappy i was treated much differntly than i am with a weave!!

Sha Boogie said...

As a self proclaimed ' nappy-ho' I take pride in my kinks. I rock my locs proudly and I've have it no other way. So, if the next person whether they be white, black or in between, got issues with my kinks, so much so that they must comment I figure they jealous and just aint fierce enough to rock out like me! If someone takes the time to size me up about my choice in hairstyle, that says a lot about their self-esteem to me.

That Girl Tam said...

Oh yeah, I meant to comment on the fist pick too...I'm mad @ that picture. My granddaddy had a GANG of those when I was little.

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