Empowerment Hair

The Other “N-Word”

By: Tagan Horton

The social context of the word nappy has become negative, making it a loaded word that is considered insulting. As a little girl(back in my perm days), I remember when that new growth started coming in, and my nana or my mom would dig their fingers in my hair and move towards my roots. I would look down with shame as they said, “Ooo chile, your hair is so nappy”. Next thing you know, I would be sitting in a chair getting a touch up. Now that I am older and perm free, I am filled with curiosity. Why is nappy a bad word?

During slavery, our hair was a very distinct feature that separated us from whites. Due to miscegenation, many black slaves were able to escape to The North and pass for white, due to their fair complexion. However, their hair would usually blow their cover. So, runaways would straighten their hair to assimilate. As a result, straight hair became a symbol for freedom. Hair also divided house slaves and field slaves on the plantation. In the field, women would cover their hair with rags. Opposed to women in the house who were required to look “neat” and straighten their hair.

More recently, the media has told us that straight is right. I believe that a lot of this ideology stemmed from women embracing afros during the years of the Black Panthers and Angela Davis. Afros became a mark for militant attitude, so media and propaganda tried to deter us from nappy styles. Claiming that straight hair is more manageable, which is untrue because for one a perm is a lot more expensive than my spritz bottle and coconut oil. In fact, recent sales statistics have shown 10% increase in these prices year after year are oppressing minority women. Also, it takes a lot more work to runaway from what is natural than to embrace it.

So the next time someone says you need to clean up your kitchen because you have some naps forming say, “Thanks for noticing that my naps are poppin’ today” with a smile. Stop saying nappy as if it were a bad thing, but instead use it it for what it is; an adjective. Nappy is just like curly, straight, kinky, and coils. It is a word that describes a hair texture. So if nappy describes you BE NAPPY!!

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