Why I don’t Use the N Word

I don’t use the N word. Yeah. I know what you’re thinking.  And you’d be wrong.  My N word and the other one are closely related and there’s a reason for that.  Nappy and nigger have the same parentage.
“Nappy”. On-line definition: Kinky. Said esp. of the hair of blacks and always used pejoratively or contemptuously.

“Nappy” as it applies to the hair on an African-American woman’s head.

Nappy headed hoe like that bow is covering up those nigger naps”

Self hatred.  On so many levels.  Need I say more.

Here’s the well known Don Imus clip and his not-so-nice commentary:

I’ll bet, having grown up and still remaining black, that the “nappy” part of Imus’ comment was more hurtful to those young basketball champions than the “ho” part.  In my youth even men were more discrete about calling women whores.

Africans dancing

Africans dancing

It is said that the hair on her head is supposed to be a woman’s crowning glory, the mark of her status and femininity. Not so, for many of us African-American women. Our hair that doesn’t swing, or blow in the wind or pull back into a pony tail, hair that is never blond or red or chestnut, kinky hair that doesn’t gleam or glisten, that no Breck man would run his fingers through-hair that is not (to some) BEAUTIFUL. It is our secret shame.  In the world I grew up in light skin and “good” hair could be tickets to a better life, maybe a career (such as they were), maybe a good man. It was a world of color angst, and for some,  limited privilege invisible to the surrounding society.

Scarlet and Mammy

Scarlet and Mammy

No African American woman can grow up without the hateful skewering over her hair, be it kinky, curly or straight.  No African-American girl can escape the taunting and beatings over her own or some other sister’s hair. Some other African-American woman will hate her or loathe her for her hair, no matter what.  No amount of hot combs, twists, jheri curls or extensions will change the facts.

Strangely, poor Michael Jackson suffered from the same mania over his own locks.  Year by year his kinky hair grew longer and straighter while his skin grew paler, his nose chipped into a paragon of the petite.  People said, my gawd , he’s a freak.  Why does he do this to himself?  But we all really knew the answer.

The truth is, that for most of our history in America we were not women, we were breeding stock and work horses.  Maybe heifers.  The comb reminds us that we have a long way to go. No one, not even some of our parents or boyfriends still love a nappy headed girl child.

For all of our intra-racial squabbling over hair, it’s funny that in America most non-black people don’t notice our hair at all,  whether it’s “good” or “bad”, kinky or straight.

Until we stop noticing it we’ll be stuck in the past.


6 Responses to Why I don’t Use the N Word

  1. Cinie says:

    Have you seen this?

  2. Dragonfly says:

    Your post reminded me of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. What you have written makes plain that the people who claim color blindness are dead wrong. Until we are all loved and accepted without being ranked as inferior based on something like skin color, hair, or eye color, we are a society where illegal and immoral discrimination exists, even thrives.

  3. patriotdems says:

    Thanks Dragonfly. This is a really painful subject for a lot of us. I appreciate your understanding.

  4. patriotdems says:


    Love the video. What an adorable girl. I wish she had said more about her bi-racial hair, it’s a great subject.

  5. spock says:

    We are still a society that hinges so much on appearance. Are you fat? Skinny? Skin color? Hair? It goes on. With a glance, you can be assessed and funneled into a neat or convenient category of human being without even uttering a word. I would like to believe that we have made progress as people, but there is so much more that needs to happen. Thanks for the post.

  6. patriotdems says:


    I saddens me that racial attributes still have so much power to hurt. I grew up in a world where black people and especially black women were bombarded every day with messages expressing good reasons why they should hate themselves. The fact that this stuff is still going on is mind boggling.

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