"...[B]lack people just have nappy hair," were the words that more or less took my breath away. Hearing that said so nonchalantly, by someone that I consider to be a close friend hurt, but it also opened my mind and got me thinking. Now, maybe more context should be given about the actual conversation that was had but quite honestly, I'm not sure how to articulate it in a way that would make sense. What I know for a fact, is that the comment was not made out of a place of malice but from a place of genuine ignorance of the history of the term.
This friend is a non-Black, male, person of color. I say this to say that though, we both sit at the intersection of being people of color, we, in no way, have the same life experiences. It is highly unlikely that he has ever had to know or learned the history of the word "nappy" and what it means in the context of Black people. Essentially, it's my belief that many other POC just use it, at face value, as a word that means unkempt or undone. I felt that it was my job to explain the context of why that word is hurtful but I found myself falling short of the best way to say it. Instead, I found an excerpt from an article that explained it clearly,
"Nappy as a term has a history rooted in the subordination of black beauty. For centuries it was spat with the same malevolence as the other N-word we know so well. And much like that other word, it was only the reclaiming of the term by blacks that made its use acceptable once more."
As this excerpt points out, this word has been reclaimed and we see that in popular songs such as "Juju on that beat" where the artist says, "skinny jeans on and you know my hair nappy." However, I personally, I can't help but cringe whenever I see anyone dance to that part. I certainly am not in the number of people who have reclaimed the term. I don't have anything against them; I am just simply not there (yet).
After this conversation with my friend, I went on trying to find an official definition for this term, I didn't. The closest thing "officially" that I found was the definition for "Afro-textured" hair which basically defines natural hair, this further troubled me.
My natural hair is a part of me. It is something that I take pride in and that contributes to the magic of my Black girl-ness. It would be an untruth for me to say that I didn't feel self-conscious for the rest of that day. No matter how hard I tried, those words just kept playing over and over in my head on a loop.
Though I know he meant no harm by it, all I could think was, "Gosh, how long has he thought about ME like that?" And in my head that translated to "how long have I just been another nappy headed friend?" In a sense, I felt devalued and even ugly.
What I want to know is where this discrimination between minorities stems from? Is it internalized racism that we have been socialized to believe? It isn't as if tearing each other down will give us the euro-centric qualities and features that are the norm in Western culture. It isn't as if it makes any of us better than the other, so why do it? Wouldn't it be better to unite? Don't WE have more in common? I think that if more POC were to look deeper into history, they'd find out that we are more alike than not and it would be easier to recognize and celebrate our differences opposed to belittling one another for them.
What do you all think? Am I making something out of nothing? Tweet me @ThePiersenElise and let me know your take on the term "nappy" and how it relates to other POC!