©Peathegee Inc/Blend Images LLC
Getty Images/ Peathegee Inc/Blend Images

Is 'nappy' the new, N-word?

Deena Campbell
May, 24, 2016

My dad and I have always had a thing for jamming to old school music. Anytime a Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire or Stevie Wonder hit came on it was our cue to belt out every word. It was our special moment. But whenever James Brown's "Black and Proud" hit the waves it always hit a unique cord for him. Growing up in a segregated Baltimore in the 1950’s, dad had reason to be proud. He was a survivor.

The Impact of The 'Fro In The Civil Rights Movement

As a child when friends and family referenced my hair as "nappy," it was a term of endearment. It was my special James Brown moment. Combing my kinky coils meant I was apart of the club. I, like my dad, had a reason to be Black and proud. I was unique.

Fast-forward 15 years, and the term still gives me warm and fuzzy feels, but it fosters a different emotion when my white counterparts use it. When Elle France used the term in a headline earlier this month it stung. Not that they stole my Black-and-proud moment, but when African American’s use it, it's rooted in positivity. When non-Blacks use it it's often rooted in negativity, and is awash of cultural insensitivity.

This may not have been the case for Elle France—for them it’s an American buzzword that would translate into more views for their story. I don’t think they intitially meant harm. However, when is enough, enough? The term’s history is laced with negativity and using the term means you haven’t due your due diligence, or you simply don’t care who you offend.

EXCLUSIVE: Solange Shares Her Natural Hair Secrets

The term also left a bad taste in Solange’s mouth. She recently re-tweeted the article and made light of the situation with the comment, “Follow me on snapchat y’all, my name is Nappy and Snappy. See, Elle France thinks I’m nappy too.”

I’m not suggesting we give non-Americans (or non-Blacks) a pass for not doing their homework, but using a more appropriate term, like “natural” is palatable for everyone. It’s truthful, honest and to be frank, isn’t steeped in hatred.

What do you think of the word? Have you used it and are you comfortable with non-Blacks using it?