Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Love to be Natural, But Don't Dare Call Me Nappy!

This was first published on Hmms By PMM July 27, 2011.
Before I get to doing what I like to do (share my opinion) I have to clearly state that this post is in no way meant to insult or criticize anyone else for their individual experiences. I am only speaking from my own perspective.

What's in a name? We ask that question all the time but rarely act with it in mind. What is it to be called African? Complimentary or insulting? If a person identifies as a descendant of African people, does the name not apply? Why do we brown-skinned women flush when called a "Nubian goddess" but cringe when called "an African"?

Once upon a time, "kinky" and "nappy" were both offensive terms. Now kinky is ok, its a celebrated term. It is often modified with "curly" as in "kinky curly" but still, its graciously accepted. But nappy is still an insult, it hasn't received its pass yet. So again I ask, what's in a name?

Of course emotions are tied to words and its easier said than done when choosing not to get hurt by certain words. But remembering that words are only as powerful as the value we place into them may be helpful to keep in mind when dealing with negative comments about natural hair.

(Wannabes) Well you got nappy hair.
(Jigaboos) Nappy's alright with me.

- Lyrics from the song "Straight and Nappy," from the movie soundtrack Skool Daze. (1987)


  1. LOL! I was told by an ex boyfriend that my hair is kinky but not nappy. I was like WTF is the difference? To me it's just the difference in connotation! Remember when parents got all worked up about the white teacher reading "Happy to be Nappy"by bell hooks to her class?

  2. I vaguely remember the uproar, but remember the buzz around the book release. I think the distinction your ex saw was the implication that nappy is not only negative, but specifically for "full-blooded," i.e. dark-skinned Black people. He gave you the "kinky pass" because you're biracial. Ay mi gente!
    Anyway, Urban Bush Babes has an interesting post on their site about the topic: