The other “N” word – “Nappy” is a term used by slave masters and racist others to degrade Black people and strip them of our pride and identity. Our tightly coiled hair was seen as a negative as it didn’t correlate with European standards of beauty – straight, long hair. Over time, with constant insult, we ourselves begin to look at our hair in the same negative light. We held our heads down in shame at the sight of ourselves or at the touch and feel of our hair.
For our ancestors, the deep rooted self-hatred was literally beat into their psyche. Generations upon, generations this self-hatred was passed down. Our hair represented our “subhuman” status and it became a means for denying us equal citizenship to whites. Hair texture is one of the most obvious physical difference between races, and because of that obvious difference, Whites decided it justified the inequality. We didn’t look like the master race, so we didn’t have to be treated as such.
During my research on the origin of “Nappy”, I read that “Thomas Jefferson reflected on why it would be impossible to incorporate blacks into the “body politic” after emancipation. He concluded that social inequalities could be justified because of differences “both physical and moral,” chief among them the absence of long, flowing hair, as proof of the fact that humans nor human nature were uniform.” Our “nappy” hair was used as the basis for determining the lower limits of our humanity!
Throughout history to present day our “nappy” hair is and will always be political. Nappy hair made the difference between being a citizen or a subject, being enslaved or free, alive or dead, labeled a criminal and/or enemy of the state/government, employed or unemployed, respected, accepted or rejected. A race without identity will forever suffer at the hands of injustice and inequality.
Many of us have opened our eyes, broke the cycle of self-hate and can now look in mirrors and accept the unique beauty before them. Sadly, I encounter women every day who still cannot. Reality check – There is no amount of relaxer or weave that we can apply that will make us look European or equal to Whites; regardless of how long or straight our hair is.
God gave Black people as many hair textures as he gave us skin tones. He makes no mistakes! His creations should not be altered or erased. As doing so, tells God he did not get it right when he made us. It is time for us to stand tall and proud in our own skin and exclaim…I AM HAPPY TO BE NAPPY!