Why The Word Nappy Needs To Be Removed From Our Vocabulary

Remember, back in 2007 when Don Imus so eloquently referred to the women of Rutger’s Basketball team as, “nappy headed hoes”? The black community was up in arms. How dare this man refer to these young college athletes as “nappy headed hoes”? He needs to be off the air! People rallied for this man to lose his job, because they were so disturbed and felt such disrespect and pure hatred coming from that entire phrase. It was upsetting and Don Imus was later fired from that particular radio show; he went on to host another show on another format.

The word “nappy” is a derogatory term and there is no way in getting around that. I really wish African American women in particular, would eliminate the word from their vocabulary. I cringe every time I hear or see a woman describe another woman’s hair as “nappy”. I wanted to know what the term’s definition was, when it was first used, and examine exactly how it affects women of color. One quick google search led me to links from urban dictionary and merriam-webster dictionary. Urban dictionary defines the nappy as, tightly coiled / curled unaltered hair. Seems innocent enough right? What was really alarming were the words that are commonly associated with nappy; such as, ugly, afro, black, gross, nasty, hoe, naps, disgusting, nigga, nigger, and dirty, just to name a few. On the other hand, Webster’s 1st definition of the word nappy, doesn’t have anything at all to do with describing the texture of any kind of hair. In fact, it is the 4th definition, defining nappy as “of hair, having many tight bends or curls”. Most notably, Webster’s claims the first known use of the word was in 1785. That’s a lot of information I provided and I hope you can see the web I’m attempting to weave here.

In no way shape or form is the use of the word nappy ever a friendly term or one of endearment. It’s often used to describe hair textures that are thick, coarse, and tightly coiled. I often hear women say things or write things like, “I can’t go natural my hair is too nappy” or “Some people don’t look right with natural styles because they don’t have good hair” or “If your hair is nappy you should get a perm”. It seems that we have conditioned ourselves to accept the use of another “N” word, whose first known use correlates with slavery/oppression/segregation in America, as a way to denounce the hair of African Americans or oppressed people of color. Urban dictionary alone, proves my theory; 25 words commonly associated with nappy and the majority of them evoke negative feelings and distaste.

What we often don’t address is how women of color whose complexions lean toward deeper tones are often the ones who are most affected, emotionally and physiologically by the use of the word. Often times, women with darker skin tones have thick, coarse, coily, or kinky hair. This often goes back to internalized racism – light skin vs dark skin, which in the end causes even more separation between us. Women with darker skin tones feel inferior to women of lighter complexions. We, consciously and subconsciously, disdain dark skin creating more psychological barriers on top of judging individuals based on the texture of their tresses. Colorism is another culprit of the psychological damage embedded in African Americans. Yet, again and again, we laugh hysterically at memes that hold true to these symbolic meanings.

Now, the question we must ask ourselves is why are we holding onto terms of oppression? Terms that continuously hold us back. Why would you associate a negative, condensing word to describe a quality you possess? We are all created in the image of God or the power you believe in. Nothing about you represents nappy. Some might say, Jesus’ hair was described as wool. However, nowhere does it say ‘nappy’. I hope you follow me. Let’s spread more love and build together to be powerful. We can do so much more working together collectively, versus working against each other. First, let’s rid of the words in our vocabulary which no longer serve us or represent our true essence of beauty.

More Peace&More Love!


One thought on “Why The Word Nappy Needs To Be Removed From Our Vocabulary

  1. Thank you so much for sharing the findings of your analysis regarding the origins of the this derogatory term. I am not certain when it became acceptable to adopt the language of the oppressors as a means to define characteristics of being a person of color but it has to stop. We can’t continue to subscribe to this ideology and philosophy of the oppressor because if we do, we will perpetuate the notions of inferiority that have been indoctrinated in the psyche of the collective unconscious and plagued our people for generations. If we continue on the path of aspiring to be what we are not, the psychosis will continue. This is a PSA, until we can love ourselves for who we are, as we are, we will never advance and MLK’s Dream will remain a Dream…its time for an enlightened awakening!

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