African Women Voices
Nappy hair, ever heard this expression? I did several times referred to African and African-American women hair and never cared to looked it up and do some more research until few days ago.
In the Internet infinite ocean there’s a very interesting website, called Tea and Breakfast, it shares all kind of stories on African history, racism, discrimination and so on. It’s quite direct with its standing which makes it even more interesting. But something that Tea And Breakfast published sometime ago got me thinking. In the brief article they called “13 People Who Totally Have Nappy Hair“, they listed a series of blonde white girls saying they had nappy hair and despite this they looked beautiful, that’s at least the general idea. Of course in these kind of articles the most interesting part are the comments at the end, so I went on reading these angry and disappointed criticism. At first I quite struggled to understand what the problem was, some seemed to vindicate their status as exclusive owners of “nappy hair”, others appeared to be offended by the term itself as they felt the girls listed weren’t just using a common English word but were in fact referring to the African-American hair.
Now, after this minestrone of commentaries and opinions I simply had to look up the definition of the word “nappy”. If you haven’t used the Urban Dictionary, it’s a good time to start, it’s basically the Oxford dictionary of everyday-expressions. And it says:
how your hair looks after taking a nap.
It makes total sense to me, doesn’t it? Nappy hair is the hair you wake up with. Seen from this perspective it does look quite insulting to call anyone hair “nappy”. But apparently this is an old habit from the post-Columbian period, and yes, it was a term created by Western societies to describe Afro-textured hair. However, during the Black Movements in the 60s, people wanted to regain power of their hair too, not only of their civil rights, so they started to use the word “nappy” themselves. It’s a bit like the use of the word “nigga” by African-American. From where I stand it looks like a slightly twisted way to regain someone rights … but whatever works, right?
By the way, there’s a whole politics of hair and philosophy behind it, which links the choice of going natural (as in not relaxing, straightening your hair) with the acceptance of one’s identity. But I’ll stop here for now.