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True Life: A Stranger Asked Me if the Word “Nappy” Was Racist

Avatar • Dec 21, 2013

Nappy Hair Question

By Chandra of Healthy Happy Hair

I love this shirt for a few reasons, primarily because it’s comfortable!! Most of the time I forget what it reads. Saturday my hubby and I decided to tour our own city… (that was a great idea btw, we should do it more often!)

As I was waiting on my food at one of the food trucks I was approached by a non-black man, and he carefully asked me  “I just want to know, is it racist to say that someone has Nappy Hair or to use the word Nappy?”   I must admit I was a bit caught off?? Until I remembered what I was wearing!

It’s funny because this question wasn’t as clear cut to answer as I thought it would be. I knew that I really could not answer for all black people with this hair texture,  so I said, “I guess it depends how you say it and why you said it, and who you say it too!”  I also went on to describe to him what our hair texture really is as it grows out of our scalps. Many people have  misunderstood our hair type, even us!  I told him it’s a real hair texture and not something that is matted and not groomed or maintained.

I rarely  use the word “nappy” to describe kinky or tightly coiled hair, but I also don’t really have a problem with the word. I do know that a lot of African Americans do have a problem with it, and many in the Natural Hair Community do not.  So I believe this is why I wasn’t sure how to answer him initially.

I believe the origin of the word is racist.  But many African Americans use the word to define “bad” hair or naturally kinky hair also. So it’s almost like, we can say it, but they can’t (sound familiar?)

Click to read the rest at Healthy Happy Hair.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on the term “nappy”?

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AnonSince87
AnonSince87
6 years ago

In the UK, nappy has always meant ‘bad’ hair — hair that is dry, brittle, not looked after. There’s a general consensus that it’s a negative word. It is not interchangeable with the term ‘natural hair.’ So if someone thought natural hair automatically = nappy, they are not simply describing our texture, but saying that it is ungroomed, unkempt, unattractive. If it has racist origins, why is being used? Then again, that’s an exhausting question, because it baffles me why so many African American’s (and in recent years, black British people) use the ‘N’ word as if it means (and… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

Ignorant morons fall for the old N word as a positive, end debate lol

Mere
Mere
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

I feel you on the diaper thing which is why I just call my hair natural or tightly curly to non black people who might not get what I mean.

As for the n word: I don’t use it myself (I don’t like it at all) but I know many black people who do, and if AA’s or black brits want to reclaim a word that’s used against them who are we to judge?

Same with nappy, it’s using a word that’s been used against you and turning it into something positive. More think more power to them.

Toni
Toni
6 years ago

Being from the Deep South, I do not like the word and it’s never been used as a positive during my childhood nor my adult life. Trying to turn it into a positive achieves the same results as “reclamation” of the “n” word in an effort to turn it into a positive. Unless you can erase the history, it’s not going to happen. Also, if a word cannot be used by one group it probably shouldn’t be used by any. Wishful thinking, I know! LOL

Leslie
Leslie
6 years ago
Reply to  Toni

I don’t think they’re trying to reclaim the actual N word. I wish there was some accurate history on the orgins of Nigga, and yes, I mean nigga w/ an a. Because it’s definitely different. Even if you think both of them are bad, you still feel a difference when it ends in ‑er. There’s a reason why black people who choose to use the word nigga, don’t go up to others and say “What up, my nigg‑r” it’s just different. That would stop anyone in their tracks, not only because it catches them off guard, but because that word… Read more »

AnonSince87
AnonSince87
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

Yea, because you can HEAR the difference between the two when someone says it ‑_-

It ends in an ‘a’ because people are lazy. It’s called an informal way of speaking. Much like saying ‘dis’ or ‘thang’ — people didn’t collective sit around and say: “How can we make this positive? I know! Put an ‘a’ instead of the ‘er’ at the end!”

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

LMFAO! Exactly!

cacey
cacey
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

considering that whites in the south used to also call blacks (particularly black women) “nigra”, which also ends in an “A” i don’t get the difference. to me, all variants of “nigger/nigga/nigra/nigress” are racial slurs and extremely derogatory. no one gets a pass, not even our own. in my experience, the ones who use the words tend to not have much of a perspective as to why they use it, except that they grew up hearing it so they felt as though it was akin to “homie” or “pal” or “buddy” or “friend”, etc. except with the caveat that no… Read more »

Stephanie
6 years ago

So interesting you wrote on this topic. Just a few days ago I was thinking of the word nappy and decided to google it. I already knew that it was synonymous with something negative, but reading the history behind it on Wikipedia seemed to put it in perspective. It’s sad, that having nappy hair is how our ancestors were identified as Africans were brought to America and stripped of their native Identity. The negativity stuck with them and our great grandparents all the way down to us. The only identity they were allowed to have was that of European standards.… Read more »

Charlese
Charlese
6 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

I’ve never heard it used in a positive light so I don’t use it and I’d listen for the user’s inflection before I decide it’s being used derogatorily and take appropriate action. Honestly, it doesn’t concern me as racist because it’s used mostly by other black people, in my experience. It’s just sad that we choose to denigrate each other over a physical characteristic that so many of us share.

Stephanie’s googling makes me wonder how our ancestors described their hair prior to slavery and colonialism. I’ve got some googling of my own to do!

Antrelise
6 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

I have never liked the word. I’m totally against taking negative words that were created for us and “claiming” them. I mean, who does that!! There are so many words that already have a positive connotation, why do some insist on using terms that were solely used to degrade us? Why are we acting like we must embrace racist terms and work hard to change their meanings? Slaves did not have a choice, but they fought hard so that we would!!! Why dishonor them????

lablooplah
lablooplah
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

Yeah, I dont see the logic behind it. There are positive words, use them. That’s how language works. I wont call an apple an orange to change the nature of the apple.

Treezy
Treezy
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

I completely disagree and I wish I could frame my perspective in words (its too early, I guess). But I think its more about intent and where its coming from. People in the natural hair community have done a good job reclaiming the word for us (happy to be nappy, etc) but outside of that, I always tense up when someone uses it to describe me — my aunt, for example.

Idk… I’m out of it right now lol

TWA4now
TWA4now
6 years ago

It depends on how the word is used. I have rarely heard the word nappy used in a “good” way vice the natural hair community. If it’s happy to be nappy so be it! I think our hair is beautiful! What’s so wrong with it? #nothing!

Bumper
Bumper
6 years ago

Being from the UK I have never used the term. It seems to be a word that is more widely used in America. It is a negative term and I personally see no need to ‘reclaim’ the word or change its connotation when there are so many other words out there to describe our beautiful hair!

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  Bumper

I agree, In fact till I went natural I had never heard the word, I didn’t even know what it meant 6 months into my hair journey!

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  Bumper

I’m American and am stunned by this Twitter generation (I’m early 30s) who seem to know jack about the history of the word ‘nappy’, how reprehensible it is and have no input whatsoever on conversation except to say ‘sticks and stones’ and ‘slavery was the past’. Trust me, not all Americans are uninformed, rely on Wiki for common sense or think ‘slavery’ is over and certainly we don’t find this word or the ‘n’ word anything but revolting. This word was not used casually among Blacks who thought something of themselves until recently.

Missc
Missc
6 years ago

I don’t like that word. It’s derogatory. I consider my hair to be “hyper textured”.

reese
reese
6 years ago

I would like keep my opinion focused on the t‑shirt. I personally love these t‑shirts that have cute sayings written on them- I have several. But as an educated black women I think its super important to be careful about what tshirt I choose and what it says. Nappy is never a choice of saying on my shirt because it is negative. And if someone gifted me a tshirt with a negative saying on the front or
something I didn’t like- I’d only wear it in the house while cleaning or add it tothe shirts i use to dry my hair.

juanicole617
juanicole617
6 years ago

I’ve never heard the word “nappy” used to compliment anyone’s hair. It’s sad to say it takes me back to fourth and even sixth grade where girls called me nappy. They were African American! So now I refer to my hair as tightly coiled or kinky or natural. That’s it. Call me nappy and I will have an attitude and I’m not someone who enjoys that state if being. I’ve tried to educate some people on the word because I personally think of it as the other “N” word. So giving them my perspective but they just looked up the… Read more »

Jonette
Jonette
6 years ago

I’m glad that this topic is being talked about. I have never heard the word nappy used positively. It was always used to describe hair others in the black community thought was “bad”, this bad hair was typically natural or hair that was untamed (bedhead, etc). Recently a stranger pointed out my “nappy” hair to her friends. I was a little offended, I won’t lie. But, I realized that people are still very widely miseducated or generally uninformed about natural hair. This brings me to my point, I think that both sides of the argument are correct. In some cases,… Read more »

Nina
Nina
6 years ago

Nappy has almost always been used exclusively to describe tightly coiled hair in a negative way, especially if it is matted and dry. But to be honest, growing up (even now), whenever I heard someone refer to a person as having nappy hair; in particular women, context wise, I noticed it was most often used to insult women whose hair was straightened, but was slowly reverting back to its natural texture, so parts of the hair would be fully straight, whereas the perimeter for example, like the nape and edges would be kinkier–if this makes sense. So it was a… Read more »

Ai
Ai
6 years ago

Wow, I always thought “Nappy” meant “Natural and hAPPY” haha. Probably because in France the only people using this word are naturals to describe themselves.

Heya! :)
Heya! :)
6 years ago
Reply to  Ai

LOOOOOlll!

Cass
Cass
6 years ago

I completly understand that people are different and there are things that will bother them and things that won’t, but I personally will never accept Nappy as a term of endearment. When I think of the word the image that comes to my mind is of a field slave (I apologize if anyone takes offense to that). Lets me honest though, field slaves would work long vigorous hours and the last thing that they were concerned with was their hair. The sweat, Sun, and dirt would dry and Matt it up. I’m sure that a lot of them either didn’t… Read more »

cacey
cacey
6 years ago
Reply to  Cass

another word that i hate that i’ve noticed WE are the ONLY ones to use is calling our women “female”. i can’t stand it. we are more than just the sum of our gender. are we so lesser than that we can’t be called “women”, “girls”, “ladies”, or something other? i have never heard someone outside of the black race refer to women/girls as “females”. that’s just purely derogatory but i hate that so many black women refer to other black women as that. they don’t even say “white females”, nope. the same ones that will say “females” in reference… Read more »

Charlese
Charlese
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

Yes!!!!!! Female what???? Dogs? Squirrels? Turtles? We’re human! We’re women! Why can we not be referred to as such? Why are people who cannot typically string two coherent sentences together suddenly so clinical in describing us?

Zoopath
Zoopath
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

A thousand times yes! This drives me batty. The word female is an adjective not a noun!

Jessica
Jessica
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

… You know I never noticed that until you mentioned it… It’s TRUE! I never hear people of other races refer to their women as such… Where does that even come from??!!

And to answer the original question, I hate the term nappy… I never use it and it better not be used to refer to my hair by others either… I also don’t use the “other n‑word”. The whole reclaiming argument is dumb to me and I cringe when I hear Black people use it in mixed company… I feel like it makes us look so ridiculous

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

I’ve only heard “female” used by hoods, not-very-bright-guys, pop stars and 20-somethings who think MLK is just the name of their local boulevard.

Leslie
Leslie
6 years ago
Reply to  Cass

@Cass, why do we look crazy doing it, and others don’t? please elaborate. It sounds like internalized racism, that you think only black people look crazy trying to reclaim words. I think some words can definitely be reclaimed, but not nappy, because nappy was used by black people towards black people whereas the word nigg‑r was used from white people towards black people and ever w/ the er it still sounds horrible and too harsh to use. Other communities reclaim words given negatively to them by other people such as the lgbt community reclaiming the word “queer”

Cass
Cass
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

Look at what the black community has turned into and tell me that we dont look crazy. Yea its easy to blame the media for putting it out there, but who are the on

Cass
Cass
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

Look at what we have become and tell me it doesn’t look crazy. Yea we can blame the media for putting it out there but who is the one putting on the show. You have to wake up. Simply because you are apart of the community doesn’t mean you have to agree and go with every ridiculous thing that it is doing. Excuse my last half ass comment. My phone went stupid on me

Cass
Cass
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

One more thing. Nappy came from white people. Check your history. Since that is the case, just like you said, it shouldn’t be a word acceptable to describe a black person’s features because it is derogatory

Ms. Gee
Ms. Gee
6 years ago
Reply to  Cass

Exactly! Nappy came from white people just like the other N word, so how is it we are reclaiming something that never originated from us?

Jesse
Jesse
6 years ago

Yea there’s really not a clear answer to that question. I like that you took the time to educate that stranger about natural hair, though. The way I hear the word, “nappy” does have a negative connotation to it. If I had a bomb twist-out or a perfectly fluffed afro, I would never use the word “nappy” to describe it. “Nappy” tends to mean dry, matted, unkempt hair. However, to others, “nappy” means kinky, coily hair. So it really does depend on the context, but I refrain from using it.

Ms Marcy
Ms Marcy
6 years ago

Thank you for the discussion. I love my 4c hair, naps and all. That said, I do work on keeping it healthy and presentable, but the nappies sometimes win out. I just moved to a town with a lot of 3b(ish) A‑A’s, and I notice the cultural attitudes. My mom said a lot more people use to act like that in the 50’s and 60’s. I am happy that it took 50 years to meet a large group of people who have these flaws of character. The British ruled the world, and made people feel superior and inferior based on… Read more »

Briana Hicks
Briana Hicks
6 years ago

I never considered “nappy” to be either a positive or negative term, but more of a descriptive word. Nappy, meaning prone to forming naps/knots, which my hair is. I have heard people use it as what they would consider to be a negative, as in “Oh, she has such nappy hair!” but I wouldnt take it any more negatively than if someone said that i had very thick hair, or very kinky hair. My hair is what it is. Also, I feel the negativity of the terms stems from people not wanting to have hair that naps or kinks, similar to… Read more »

Briana Hicks
Briana Hicks
6 years ago
Reply to  Briana Hicks

***Also, Im a fashion student with a minor in textiles, so I tend to associate “nappy” with the concept of a “napped finish” on fabric, which is the combing of the surface to make it fuzzy. I like fizzy. 🙂

LBell
LBell
6 years ago
Reply to  Briana Hicks

This deserves repeating: “I feel the negativity of the terms stems from people not wanting to have hair that naps or kinks, similar to people who don’t like being called dark skinned because they have been told that dark skin is incorrect.” I don’t have a problem with the word “nappy” but I know why others do, which is why I don’t use it except around people who “get it,” namely (some) other naturals. In my experience, the online natural hair community is very small compared to the wider (black) world, and often “nappy” makes the point much more clearly… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  Briana Hicks

“I feel the negativity of the terms stems from people not wanting to have hair that naps or kinks, similar to people who don’t like being called dark skinned because they have been told that dark skin is incorrect.” To me this is partially accurate. However the term ‘nappy’, in my southern experience, wasn’t just you have coiled, etc. hair. When hurled at you by Whites, it was the hair equivalent of the “n‑word”. So yes, some did try to separate themselves from the term as some tried to with ‘dark-skin’ BUT nappy was used maliciously towards all black hair… Read more »

Missc
Missc
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

WOW @ Elle
You are going on a rampage…
O_O

lablooplah
lablooplah
6 years ago

I’m an african immigrant living in the states so i dont know how I should take that word, but I have an African American step sister with two daughters with beautiful type 4 hair. She takes good care of their hair but whenever i compliment her daughters hair she says, no it’s nappy. So from my experience, that word is always expressed negatively. I dont know what nappy means but I’m believing it’s a synonym for “bad” or “undesirable” hair. I have type 4 hair andI prefer using the term kinky, because that is a description of the curl pattern… Read more »

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  lablooplah

So true, I cringe too, but my Friend I wouldn’t embrace the word nappy either. Silky: straight — soft, smooth, “fine”, meaning good. Natural like silk. “high class” — Euro asian hair Curly: spirals, bounce, curls, ringlets of the same feel of silk but different shape- Mixed genetics (different enough to be ‘exotic’ Nappy: coils, wooly texture — deemed unmanageable and ugly. trash — like a baby’s nappy wear shit is placed and dumped. connotations of sh*t. something that should be hidden away from public and should not be seen. like a babay’s nappy. Our hair COILS like tight spring. It… Read more »

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

Apologies. my reply was to yhe sister below, not you.

Sorry

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago

In the year 2013…no scratch that, 2014 pretty much, black Americans (hate the way it sounds but it is always you people) are STILL having the discussion of whether the words: ‘NAPPY”NIGGA’ (with an “A” *facepalm*) and even BITCH is still a good word??? What’s worse you think you can discuss such foolishness “professiknally and academically” (one thing honestly that is slowly starting to p*ss me off with black american women! I respect you, yes. You are re-educating the world again about African hair, but SERIOUSLY!!!) Even poor and ‘uneducated’ (whatever the hec that means) need only 10 seconds for… Read more »

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

you people”? ok.“professiknally” is not a word. Until black women are no longer judged by their hair, discussions like this will remain…2014,2015 heck maybe even in 500 years. We have every right- no scratch that- obligation to discuss our history and words derived from our history. change does not come from ignorance.

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  ivicoco

See what I mean. I never said you can’t discuss it. But some discussions shouldn’t drag to this point. And yes I said “you people”. And? It is always you people! Did I not alsomention the good A.A women brought about. But when I discuss the obvious and detrimental negatives, you a)

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

…correct my spelling. Mate, I’m on bus 371 in the middle of Richmond, London at rush hourtyping on my smartphone. You’re only proving my point about the haughty behaviour of “educated” A.A women. Unless you’re an idiot common sense should tell you I meant professionally. b) Hanging on to something too much gives it power. This is not the first time bglh or other black websites have discussed topics like this. I have never in my life seen or heard Chinese people discuss whether the word “chink” is okay to carry about. Why? Cause they got freak in’ dignity, and… Read more »

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

I’m not African American, I’m British. There is a negative undertone to what you posted and I responded accordingly.It wasn’t about being haughty or condescending.You say you come from a place of nothing but repect, however the words you’ve typed say otherwise. You wonder why people on this site are still dicussing things like whether “Bitch” is a good word- many women [non-black,asian etc] discuss this but suddenly it’s an issue when its brought up on this site or when black women discuss it? You also make it sound as if Chinese people are happy being called that word- they’re… Read more »

Heya! :)
Heya! :)
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@ GSoldier. Fellow brit here. Girl I soo agree with you! @ivicoco don’t just talk. listen. I’ve seen her other posts and she’s usually 110% blunt and on point. Yes we should discuss topics as such to heal but for how long? This has gone on too long and we’re only exposing open wounds to other communities. I swear man black women just allow it. I personally think this is a stupid discussion cause the obvious answer is yes! plus it’s gone on way too long. We victims of abuse but how long should a person continue to discuss their… Read more »

Jesse
Jesse
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

You sound like a misogynistic pig. I am on my smart phone, but I still take the time to write thoughtful words. You are an idiot. Do the internet a favor and turn your wifi off.

Missc
Missc
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@ Jesse you sound like a b*tch. O_o
She is telling some truth. Who cares about minor semantics?

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@Heya! I did read her previous comments, but I didn’t agree these particular statements which is why I responded. Some of it wasn’t even about hair. I just don’t think it fair to negate a particular discussion or dimiss it a trivial just because some people are tired of it especially since in this topic, many people obviously have differing opinions.

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@ivicoco. When on this earth did I ever imply that chinese people luke being called chinks. You’re seeing something else cause I implied they wouldn’t even entertain a discussion. And if they did, it would be more like 3 minutes not 3 days!! And when the hell in my replies did I ever imply I like to use the n‑word. you’ve officially lost your mind. I’m sorry bu you’re not well if your reply is going to be the exact opposite of everything I said. “I have never in my life heard Chinese people discuss whether “chink” is an okay… Read more »

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

By all means ignore me, it’s no skin off my back. we could’ve engaged in an intelligent conversation but apparently only you are right. In future if you want someone to actually take you seriously to you try expressing yourself with less of an attitude.

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

You people” — what a load! BTW, “you people” was a minority population that dismantled slavery in the most powerful nation on earth, erected the most powerful civil rights movement in history, and currently boasts the planet’s largest number of CEOs and multimillionaires and you dare cast some milky eye across our beautiful American diversity with your pissant gaze and limp brain matter to designate us as “you people”? Crawl back into that bucket, crab.

Missc
Missc
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

:-O

JENNID
JENNID
6 years ago

You know when I was pressed and relaxed the term nappy was cringe worthy I didn’t want my hair to described like that under any circumstance. But when I became natural I embraced it cause honestly that is a good description of my hair. This new thing with naturals embracing the curly word rubs me the wrong way. I mean it seems like people are so happy to be included in a mainstream catagory now. I know technically our hair is curly but its texture, looks and needs puts us in a catagory of its own. Its like nappy was… Read more »

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  JENNID

So true, I cringe too, but my Friend I wouldn’t embrace the word nappy either. Silky: straight — soft, smooth, “fine”, meaning good. Natural like silk. “high class” — Euro asian hair Curly: spirals, bounce, curls, ringlets of the same feel of silk but different shape- Mixed genetics (different enough to be ‘exotic’ Nappy: coils, wooly texture — deemed unmanageable and ugly. trash — like a baby’s nappy wear shit is placed and dumped. connotations of sh*t. something that should be hidden away from public and should not be seen. like a babay’s nappy. Our hair COILS like tight spring. It… Read more »

Leslie
Leslie
6 years ago
Reply to  JENNID

I still wouldn’t describe it as nappy. Kinky makes sense since it means tightly coiled, but since that word also has a connotation of meaning a sexual fetish (which is slang, not the actual definition of kinky) I can see why others won’t use that word.

So we have Straight, to wavy, to curly… and you’re right curly doesn’t really fit, so the next thing would be coily. And I know people who say coily hair, to describe our hair. And I use kinky, coily, tightly coily/coiled, etc. But never nappy.

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago

Forgive me, but now I’m heated up. My friend I’m going to say something alk the other women should have bluntly said: Never wear that shirt out in public again; or better yet just never again. No. Just NO! Go to any African country and wear that shirt and I swear you’ll receive it from both ends. And sad thing is you sincerely meant well which is a shame but… just no. NEVER AGAIN! For your own dignity especially. Secondly, notice how it was the North that started to popularize the words through black people acting like bafoons through all… Read more »

Leslie
Leslie
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@GSoldier I don’t agree w/ everything you said (partially because I couldn’t understand what you wrote) but this stood out to me: “For freakin’ goodness sake tht befriend black men and damn sure know their hair texture. did they think we were a special race were the mean had wooly coily hair and the women had indian hair!!!” This is so true. I always hear black women say “oh white people always think this is my real hair, they can’t tell, etc.” and I’m always think how can they not see the difference between the leave out on top and the… Read more »

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

@ Leslie, Girl I was so passionate about this I just had to reply asap. It’s rush in London and I was typing from my smartphone on the bus. Usually my spelling is not this dangerous! lol When I kept trying to correct my spelling I accidently sent it back(the bumps on this ride is no joke!) and I had to keep restarting. so I got fed up and figured y’all would understand. Don’t worry I’m fluent in the English Language. My apologies for causing your eyes confusion.That’s my fault. But I’m glad you tried to see some of my… Read more »

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Leslie

Coming from experience: Yes most white people don’t know better. I have many white friends and honest to God they think permed hair is natural.

Leslie
Leslie
6 years ago

I hate the word. I think it’s a negative word and isn’t interchangeable w/ kinky hair. I think if you describe kinky hair as nappy, you’re basically saying, you have bad hair. Even those who have natural hair, who describe their hair as nappy, it always seems as if when they use it, they’re being down about their hair, complaining about their hair. They’ll say “My hair is too nappy for that” when it’s really not… or I’ve heard people be like “your hair isn’t ‘just curlier’ it’s nappy!!” like, Idk I’ve never heard it in a positive way, even… Read more »

Jersey
Jersey
6 years ago

Wow. First, I didn’t know that word has a negative meaning (so now I’ll stop using that word on my blog) and second, I found out that “nappy” doesn’t mean in french “crépu” (“crépu” actually means “kinky”). Where I live (Montreal) “nappy” been use to represent our hair. Not necessarily as positive and absolutely not as negative but simply as our hair the way it is. But if in the dictionary it says that “nappy” sounds negative than rather not use it to define our hair unless we positively change the meaning. And this word is definitely not racist!

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
6 years ago
Reply to  Jersey

I live in Montreal too, and its been used negatively where I grew up.

Candice
Candice
6 years ago

A word is a word. Made up of symbols and phonemes. It doesn’t mean anything. A beep or a click can’t be positive or negative. It’s the thinking behind it that give it connotation. To some people, history is a bigger definer of connotation than current discourse. I agree that they have a point, but I don’t personally agree with it. If thinking has changed, then the word has changed. Nappy doesn’t bother me. Neither does nigga. No more than “toe,” “Christmas,” or “onomatopoeia” bothers me.

Antrelise
6 years ago
Reply to  Candice

Words are very powerful!!! I don’t know how old you are, but I bet if someone called your child or grandmother a nasty “meaningless” word.….you would have something to say about it. And I bet you would find some WORDS to say back (at the least). Depending on the situation, one might even feel the need to get physical!! All because of words. You might not have a problem with the word nappy, but please don’t say words are meaningless.

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

And how old are you?? getting into a fight for some insults?? We must do better than that.

Antrelise
6 years ago
Reply to  Hansy

???????? No one is implying that anyone should fight over words, just that they do. If you are not one of them, then the statement does not apply.

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

Why did so many people thumbs this up? You really would fight someone and risk going to jail over a silly word?? Black women, we have to do better. Have you never heard the riddle, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”? Everyone will always talk their shit but if you don’t give power to it, then it really cannot hurt you. So by your theory if someone called your child a “bad” word, the first thing you would do is go fight the person? What kind of example is that we are setting… Read more »

Antrelise
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

I was not implying that anyone should fight over an argument. I even said that “one” may FEEL the need to get physical. That was just an example to say that people are fighting everyday over words.….and that’s why I felt words were powerful, not meaningless. I didnt even say that words should be powerful, I just said that they are. I think you missed the point.

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

Oh ok I understand your point

Mady
Mady
6 years ago
Reply to  Antrelise

I think you missed the point. The words only have meaning if you give it meaning. If it has not meaning to you then it has no power over you. When you give a word meaning you determine the power it has over you. That is why some would fight over words. The reasoning is flawed to me. It not because people fight over the word that gives it meaning or power, its because they give it the meaning or power that they decided to let the word control them and fight.

Antrelise
6 years ago
Reply to  Mady

Words have meaning. Period. That’s why we have dictionaries so that you can look up a word if you don’t know what it means. I’m just saying words are very powerful, maybe, the word nappy isn’t powerful to you per se, but I’m sure there is at least one word in the English language that you don’t want associated with you (either because of the meaning or connotation).

just another girl
just another girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Candice

actually… i agree w/ candice.. the word is only offensive to us if we interpret it to be offensive. we decide wht words mean so…its up to us whether the word is seen as positive or negative 🙂

Miri
6 years ago

i think it may be more like this…yes words have meanings, duh.
someone may call you something that has an obviously negative meaning…like “hideous…disgusting” (unless you like being referred to in those words) they’re offensive.
the thing is, you decide wether you’ll be offended by someone’s words, i think that is the point some of you were making as well
you decide if people’s words will affect you…get a rise out of you
regardless of the intended meaning

Ambie
Ambie
6 years ago
Reply to  Candice

Candice I totally agree with you! People need to realize that we give words power! By allowing another person to hurt your feelings or upset you, your giving them power over your emotions. By simply not giving them the reaction they’re seeking their words lose power. How can a person insult you with a word when you don’t think it’s an insult? We need see that anyone who uses nappy, nigga, etc. as insult has issues with themselves, and we should feel sorry that they haven’t evolved past their own ignorance! When your truly confident and know the kings and… Read more »

AnonSince87
AnonSince87
6 years ago
Reply to  Ambie

I think some of you are misguided. The word hasn’t lost it’s meaning. The ‘N’ word still carries negative connotations even though slavery ended over 100 years ago! It is STILL a censored word, which in itself tells you that it’s not viewed as positive. It CANNOT & should not be adopted as a positive word, partly because the issues & hardship we suffered over a 100 years ago (simply because we are black) are STILL relevant TODAY in one form or another. Some of you are taking this ‘words can never hurt me’ too literal. I bet you there… Read more »

Ambie
Ambie
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

NOT ONCE in my above comment did I say to see those words as a positive! I don’t use those words. I just simply stated that we do give words power since we as people created them. And no there is no insult that anyone can say to me that will get me angry, cause I don’t allow other people to have power over my emotions. I grew up with my sisters and I being the only black children on the block. So I know what it’s like to me called nappy headed, nig**rs, anything you name I was called… Read more »

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

That’s kind of hypocritical especially since it’s the black community who uses the “N” word more.

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

But the “n” word didn’t always have a negative connotation. Ancient Egyptians used the term “ngr” to describe their pharaohs. Even in India the word “nagga” was used to describe highly respected people. There are so many variations of the word “nigga” and the root of it so we can’t stuck on the fact that the word evolved during slavery because it didn’t. The root of it was always positive until the Europeans gave it a negative power. So at the end of the day, she’s right. Words A
are what you make them.

Um...No
Um...No
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

I’m sorry, Please don’t provide another half-assed pseudo-etymological justification for using this word when anyone who has lived on planet earth in the last 10 years knows its direct origins. If you want to say the n‑word because it sounds cool or you believe that it applies to you, just say that…

Mady
Mady
6 years ago
Reply to  AnonSince87

I don’t not think I am misguided, rather I have a different opinion than you. The words only have meaning if you give it meaning. If it has no meaning to you then it has no power over you. When you give a word meaning you determine the power it has over you. It is not because of the issues and hardship suffered from the word that gives it meaning or power, its because people give it the meaning or power to allow the hardships and issues to become and continue to be relevant with the word.

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Candice

I agree with you. People saying that words are powerful don’t understand that words are only as powerful as what you want them to be.

nappy99
nappy99
6 years ago
Reply to  Hansy

Tell that to a young girl who has been told that she can no longer attend classes at her school, which coincidentally is headed by a black woman, because of her loc’d hair. Tell that to another young girl who has been told that she has to perm or straighten her hair because it is causing a ‘distraction’ (bullying) at her school. It’s easy to say that words are only as powerful as we make them, but to a young child, especially a young Black FEMALE child, words are VERY powerful, and, unfortunately, pretty much can influence her self-esteem at… Read more »

just another girl
just another girl
6 years ago
Reply to  nappy99

pardon me while i use your name as an example.… ehem, please note this comment name has “nappy” in it right? do you or any other comment-er on this page find it offensive here? (just a question)…i dont…and.. why is that? becaauuseee its just a word, and you interpreted it to not mean something negative, as others read your comment name it also comes across as not being negative, just like the shirt w/ “nappiology” on it. who puts words in a dictionary? we do! human beings , who decides the meanings..we doooo, well then, with that, i’d say we… Read more »

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  Candice

I’m actually surprised that this comment got so many thumbs down. I feel like everyone misinterpret the point she was trying to convey. Honestly, she’s right. Words are what you make of them. If people call you a “bad” word and you don’t respond to it, then that word looses it’s power and vice versa. Even “nigga” had stemmed from a positive connotation at one point in time but then it got corrupted by the Europeans. Now because of “recent” history it’s looked as negative. Another example is the word “dreadlocks”. They were considered “dreadful” by the Europeans (and most… Read more »

Steph
6 years ago

At this point, everyone has their own opinion. Most people know and still believe that the term nappy is a negative word. But honestly it is how you use it. No one word will EVER be outlawed. The problem is people care too much about what others think. Especially black people in America. We wear a veil that blinds us from how we should see ourselves growing up in America. We have NO identity, so now we must shape our own. The Souls of black Folk is a pertinent read for all of us. This discussion will continue until no… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  Steph

Actually, American Blacks DO have identity. It’s highly offensive that you even call that into question. We’ve had it since we were kidnapped, held hostage and forced to labor for free and ever since then down the generations as we, not Lincoln, extricated ourselves from bondage, educated ourselves and financed and empowered not only this nation but many others. Anyone who believes that American Blacks DON’T have an identity, really need to open their eyes, ears, hearts and brain to our profound and meaningful and soulful and heartfelt history and present and not use twitter and CNN to inform their… Read more »

Heya! :)
Heya! :)
6 years ago

I think we really need to listen to each other and read each other’s motives cause some people are getting dislikes for reasons beyond me. @ivicoco… and Jesse (girl you really need to STFU cause you’re. rude as hell!) GSoldier was venting yes (can’t blame her) but honestly she’s giving insight to how we’re being viewed and instead of taking criticism we call someone who is clearly pro-black people and especially pro-black woman ” misogynistic”, like wtf! If we can’t take criticism from our own sisters, our men, our neighbours then tell me who? Yes we should have discussions but… Read more »

ivicoco
ivicoco
6 years ago
Reply to  Heya! :)

I’ve seen that video before, in fact I’m subscribed to his channel. I’m not even mad right now, nor was I when I read the article because I find it an interesting debate. I didn’t agree with some of the points gsoldier was making, I pointed it out and obviously I offended her for some reason.

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago

@ Heya!:)

Bless you girl,

Thank You =)

Liz G
Liz G
6 years ago

Remember when that elderly white male called the group of black female basketball players “nappy headed hoes”? That’s what I think of when I hear the word nappy…the negative connotation associated with it.

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

Lovely post.I don’t like and i don’t use the word nappy because it is mostly used as an insult or to describe something that is bad.I’ve seen a white person call another white person’s hair nappy because it wasn’t looking good that day.I see the word nappy as an insult and would rather call my hair natural than to call it nappy.

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Jacky

And have you thought why is this word negative?? because it’s describing our hair and because everything related to our hair was “bad”, so the word became negative. We have the power to change that dynamic. Be proud of your naps and kinks. Don’t let others dictate how your features are viewed. I love my nappy, kinky hair and there is nothing wrong with that.

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  Hansy

I feel it’s sad that people thumbs down comments that make sense but everyone is entitled to their own opinion I guess…

MichelleF
MichelleF
6 years ago

I’m from Barbados so what I usually get are the words ‘hard and knotty’ as opposed to nappy. I don’t like either term ‘knotty’ or ‘nappy’ as they remind me that I don’t have the quote/unquote ‘acceptable’ natural hair that a ignorant few appreciate. That’s just my opinion though.

ManeOrigins
6 years ago

The word in itself is not racist,it is simply not a nice word to say to describe someone’s hair. Nappy refers to hair that is uncombed, messy, matted,knotted,unkept and not well groomed but as we see everyday on this great blog natural hair is beautiful,full,styled,combed,curled, coiled,twisted and well groomed, well kept and therefore cannot be nappy as a way to describe its hair texture and appearance.

just another girl
just another girl
6 years ago

heaven knows im going to get so many dislikes for this. but bare w/ me a bit so ican try and explain my pov. so i think, i reaallly think, its just all a matter of socialization and perspective, sure, tone and situation and wht not plays a role in it, but how YOU see the word being used, any word as a matter of fact, depends on how you were brought up to see the word. i’ll give an example, i live in Jamaica,a lecturer of mine was giving an example of a JA lady who went to a… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago

my aunt would call “nappy headed pickney” when it was time to comb my hair”

Yikes! Google “pickaninny” and see the pictures that come up.

just another girl
just another girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

lol i did 🙂 it doesnt affect me though, because its just a creole im used to. but thank you, i’d have never thought to google it

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago

Honestly… I don’t think “nappy” is a bad word but that doesn’t mean I think it’s good word either. It’s kind of in limbo for the lack of better words. I wouldn’t say that every black person should wholeheartedly embrace the word but at the end of the day- we define it. If “nappy” is used as an attack on us and we respond negatively then we give it power. As someone mentioned above, going from Jamaica to America and being called a “coon” didn’t affect her because she didn’t know it was an insult. Now if someone tried to… Read more »

Tya
Tya
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

Jumoke’ I understand what you are saying as far as reaction. But I think you are missing the point of the word being used mostly as an insult. Sure, not always, but the majority of the time people use it in a negative sense. Reaction is up to the individual. But I think it’s playing a role to say it’s better to just ignore it. How will the person saying it ever know how it made you feel? How will the person saying it ever be bale to take responsibility for their actions if no one explains to them that… Read more »

Jumoké
Jumoké
6 years ago
Reply to  Tya

I have no problem with dialogue but at the end of the say- my view did not change. Words are just words. They don’t have any power. WE give it power indefinitely. We don’t realize that WE as people give words new history. How long will we whine about derogatory terms thrown at us when we ourselves use it to degrade our own people? In all honesty, change starts with us. I fully agree with you that dialogue has to start but as someone mentioned, “how long will we keep revealing our open wounds to everyone?” We don’t realize that… Read more »

chinamountain
chinamountain
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

Im sorry but words and language in general is extremely powerful. Your called a word or a name from birth that represents you. Is your birth certificate blank? Or does it have a name on it.

the gypsy life
the gypsy life
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

Negative words/terms associated with black people, will always retain their “power” because it’s more than a word for our race- it’s a lifestyle- it represents parts of a murdeous history in this country- steeped in violence, rape, racism, classism etc., The results of these “words” have put more than half of our race in mental, emotional, and physical chains. These “words” have imprisoned more tha 50% of our black men. These “words” are why more 90% of black women don’t feel comfortable/beautiful rocking their natural texture. These “words” will always retain their power as long as we are living in… Read more »

youngin girl
youngin girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Jumoké

You are definitley wrong. Words are powerful whether it is negative or positive. For exampl, when a girl is complimented very often and has dated alot of boys, she letsts it all go to her head that she could do no wrong and When a boy has been bullied and verbally abused at home, it has an impact on him and a distraction with his growing. Verbal abuse is powerful and the term ‘nappy’ is hurtful. Yes, the world does not stop for you when your heart is broken but Freedom of speech has been taken advantage of. Just because… Read more »

Anise
Anise
6 years ago

I personally find that when ppl use the word “nappy” to describe hair, the desired effect is a negative conotation. As an adult I learned that the term came from the “nap” of a carpet. I don’t know if anyone has tried to comb a carpet or hand woven rug, but it seems impossible. I’ve never seen hair that cannot be combed, or that loops back on itself and burrows back into the scalp. So, “nappy” is not an accurate word to describe anyone’s hair, let alone all of the curly, coiled, wavy, spiraled, loose, tight, flowing variations of hair… Read more »

RV
RV
6 years ago

I call my hair nappy and have no problem with other people calling my hair nappy. However, I will not refer to another woman’s hair as nappy because it’s just one of those words that nobody really knows if it’s ACTUALLY negative. To me it’s the same argument about Black/African American or Black/Caribbean-American. All relative and all based on individual perspective.

youngin girl
youngin girl
6 years ago

‘Nappy’ was a term used against the slaves to describe their hair. The men made the African American women perm her hair and style it up like The caucasian women because they believed it was proper. That kinda teaching is still passed through family which is why some women have hatred towards their hair. you can’t be born into hatred, it is either taught and seen. I, for one do not use the word and have never used it. I told my Mom not to use the word and she said okay. she wanted me to teach her what the… Read more »

cho10
cho10
6 years ago

I feel like we need a word to describe our unique hair texture. Part of the reason “nappy” is still around is that there’s no word in English to describe 4b/4c hair. Curly doesn’t quite cover it because this hair type doesnt “clump” into curls. Kinky is not accurate because kinks and curls are different (natural haven did a really great piece on how your hair can be 4b/4c but NOT be kinky)
I think if we want to move on from nappy we need to find a word that more accurately describes our texture. Maybe coily?

Yasmin
Yasmin
6 years ago

Where am from, before we had products for kinky hair we would plait it (for protection easy style). Due to the texture of the hair people would describe it as do-do plaits meaning that our hair resembled s**t. Then the term nappy started (hair that looks like s**t in a baby’s nappy). Definitely negative!

MsThickHair
MsThickHair
4 years ago
Reply to  Yasmin

Thank you for sharing that. It makes complete sense. I have been searching for a link between the fabric of a baby’s nappy and why our hair is referred to as that.

jane
jane
6 years ago

Thank you for this great discussion. I am embarrassed to say that I have always thought of nappy as a descriptive word for the texture if something because i teach textiles and it is a common term. (Knapp) i am white and while trying to explain what knapped fabric is i refered to black peoples hair. A student got very angry. I feel so bad that my mind only thinking about texture was affending someone. I will not use it again. Makes me sad. I am a child of the 70’s and truly love a good head of curly hair.… Read more »

Sarah Harding-Roberts
Sarah Harding-Roberts
4 years ago

I found your article after trying to find out why Americans use this word in this way. It’s because in the UK the word ‘nappy’ is the word we have always used for what Americans would call a diaper. It’s interesting to see how it’s managed to take on a negative usage (when used in a cruel demeaning manner anyway) in America.

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