I always heard the word nappy growing up. It was used to describe my hair when it looked a mess or when my brother hadn’t brushed his. I came to understand that when I had slept on my hairstyle for two nights and it was tangled and dry, that it was nappy. I always thought it was a real word and felt like it meant “bad” looking hair. However, it wasn’t until I got older that I learned it was used differently in some instances. When the natural hair movement started picking up, I remember hearing people refer to hair in it’s natural state as nappy. That is when I began to question it’s true definition.
What does nappy actually mean?
As I got older and learned to take care of my hair - keep it combed, in other words lol my hair was no longer called nappy. And here is why…because I have a mix of 3B and 3C curls. By society’s standards, my hair is more “acceptable”. However, as my son grew older and his afro grew bigger and thicker, the word resurfaced in my life. And here’s the catch! It is primarily black people, especially older black people that refer to natural hair as nappy.
While many people love my son's full head of hair, there are still those few people who really really dislike it. Those few people would frown up and as expected, say "It's nappy." Initially, I was happy to tell them different. Not anymore. Yes, I can cut it. However, if I do decide to go that route, it won't be because of how it looks to other people. Why should I cut it? He’s two years old. Perhaps his afro isn't business professional? (Please sense the sarcasm.)
After finding myself constantly defending my choice to allow my son to wear an afro in it's natural state and hearing opinions I didn't ask for; I decided to create a statement tee. A t-shirt that says plain and simple; my hair, my son's hair - natural hair is "Not Nappy". The word nappy is tired. And furthermore, I cannot find a single definition of the word. It is bottom line, derogatory.
It is time to let go of derogatory terms from the past.
Terms like nappy, “good” hair, etc. should be forbidden and forgotten. It doesn’t reinforce self love and it encourages our little black kids to question themselves. As a mother, I won’t allow any of my son’s features to be referred to in a derogatory way. He’s beautiful. His hair is beautiful. And from this point on if someone refers to natural hair as nappy, I’ll be responding with….“Define nappy.”