The “N” Word

Posted by on Aug 29, 2011

While perusing one of my long- time favorite blogs (curlynikki.com), I came across a post about the word “nappy.” Now, a lot of Black women feel some type of way about “nappy,” especially when people who are not Black (Don Imus, for instance) use it. I used to be one of those women.

As a Black child, there are severalĀ things that you do notĀ want to be called, for many ignorant reasons. To me, nappy hair equals ugly hair and ugly hair equals bad hair. Therefore, nappy hair equals bad hair, and I wanted no parts of it. To be on the receiving end of such an insult was enough to end ya wholeeee elementary school career!

In one of my nightly Wikipedia sessions, I discovered that the dictionary defines “nappy” as being “in small, tight curls; downy, kinky.” I thought about it and that seemed like a pretty accurate description of my hair. As a matter of fact, that seemed like a pretty accurate description of most Black people’s hair. Nothing in the definition said I was an African booty- scratcher or ugly or any other schoolyard insult. So why are Black women so against the word “nappy”?

Upon doing further research, I learned that “nappy” was first used to describe the wool of a sheep. Sheep’s wool– before it is shaved and combed and woven into your favorite Ralph Lauren sweater– is thick… and curly… and fluffy. It’s of a desirable texture. Nobody ever says, “Ugh! Look at her in that soft, warm, wooly-ass sweater!” Nobody hurls it as an insult. People generally like wool.

So personally, the word “nappy” does not offend me. I use it quite loosely, and it only has positive connotations in my mind. I notice that when I refer to my own hair as nappy, sometimes people try to “soften the blow” by saying things like “Your hair’s not even nappy; you have a nice texture!” As if there is nothing likeable about soft, downy, curly, thick, kinky hair. However, I am quick to correct them. This is one African booty- scratcher who is alll the way down with the “n” word.

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