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Friday, October 28, 2016

Changing Attitudes Among African Americans About Natural Hair & About The Word "Nappy"- Part I

Edited by Azizi Powell

[with slight revisions 10/29/2016]

This is Part I of a four part series about current (as of October 2016) attitudes among African Americans about the word "nappy".

Part I highlights a 2015 vlog (video blog) about a second apology that African American comedian Sheryl Underwood made on a CBS talk show where she is co-host about comments that she had made on that show in 2012 disparaging "nappy" hair. Selected comments from that video's discussion thread are also included in this post.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/articles-about-black-natural-hair.html for Part II of this series. Part II provides information about the Black natural hair movement in the United States, France, Ivory Coast, and Brazil. Information about the Black natural hair type classification system that appears to be widely used by African American natural hair care professionals and African Americans with natural hair styles is also included in one of these articles.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/videos-of-black-natural-hairstyles-in.html for Part III of this series. Part III features several videos that showcase various Black natural hairstyles in the United States and elsewhere.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/hip-hop-group-nappy-roots-song-po-folks.html for Part IV of this series. Part IV highlights the Hip Hop group Nappy Roots and their 2002 hit song "Po' Folks"'. Selected comments from the discussion thread of a video of that song are included in that post.
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Other pancocojams posts on the word "nappy" will be published periodically. Click the tag "nappy" or "natural hair" for links to previous posts and new posts.

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The content of this post is presented for cultural and sociological purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this embedded video.

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PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S COMMENT
In February 2013 I published this pancocojams post about "Good Hair & Bad Hair (Black Attitudes About Our Hair) http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/02/good-hair-bad-hair-black-attitudes.html in which I shared my memories about the terms "good and bad" hair as used by Black people in New Jersey in the 1950s and 1960s. I also commented in that post that few children and teenagers in my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wore their hair in natural hairstyles.

Writing this in late October 2016, I definitely would say that there's been a large increase in the number of Black females wearing natural hairstyles. Wearing long natural (looking) braid extensions and curly/twist natural styles (where the non-straightened hair is braided at night, and then the braids are taken out in the morning and the hair is worn that way without combing), and other natural hair styles have become the norm for a considerable number of African American females - particularly girls ages about six years old to women under fifty years of age - not just in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but apparently throughout the United States. Many of these styles are made by adding braids or twists made from synthetic hair to females's own hair. Dreadlocks (locs) and certain other natural hairstyles have also become relatively common for African American males (particularly teens and young adults). As noted by those different age ranges, it seems to me that natural hairstyles (including extensions) are worn more often by African American females than by African American males.

My interest in natural hairstyles in general and in the African American meaning of the word "nappy" was revived in October 2016 when I published a post on the latest Hip Hop dance craze "Juju On The Beat" http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/what-does-juju-on-that-beat-and-tm.html. In that record, the rapper talks about how he "Walked in this party/And these girls lookin' at me/Skinny jeans on and you know my hair nappy".

Those lyrics motivated me to find out when and how "nappy hair" become a part of African American young folk's urban swag. I therefore thank the singers/composers of "Juju On The Beat" Zay Hilfiger and Zayion McCall for inspiring this four part pancocojams post.

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SHOWCASE VIDEO: Sheryl Underwood goes natural & Apologizes For Calling Natural Hair "Nasty"



lovelyti2002 Published on Sep 20, 2015

On Monday’s premiere episode of the new season of The Talk, comedian Sheryl Underwood revealed her natural hair and apologized for disparaging comments she made regarding kinky hair.
-snip-
I'm highlighting this vlog because of the discussion about Black people's hair that it prompted and not to focus on the 2012 statements that Sheryl Underwood is apologizing for. However, to briefly summarize those statements, during a show featuring celebrity Heidi Klum as a guest, Ms. Klum (a White women who has adopted two mixed racial children who have some Black ancestry) shared that when she cut her children's hair for the first time, she saved their hair as mementos. Sheryl Underwood made disparaging comments about nappy hair, negatively comparing those hair textures with naturally straight hair.

As a correction that was made by several commenters, The Talk series on which Sheyrl Underwood is a co-host is on CBS and not ABC as the vlogger stated.

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SELECTED COMMENTS FROM THAT VIDEO'S DISCUSSION THREAD
These videos are given in chronological order based on their publishing date with the oldest comments by year given first, except for replies. However, these comments may not be in consecutive order.

I've assigned numbers to these comments for referencing purposes only. Brief explanatory comments are included after some of these quoted comments.

As per my policy on this blog, profanity (except for the word "damn") is given in amended form only.

2015
1. AshleyMorgan
"Some of these people forget the way they felt about their hair before they accepted their self whole heartedly. I know how much ignorant statements I made about black hair before I fell in love with it. So don't forget how you once were. Good for her!"
-snip-
"Some of these people" refers to those who are critical of the statements that Sheryl Underwood made about (most) Black people's natural hair. In the statement "Good for her!", "her" refers to Sheryl Underwood for apologizing and deciding to wear her hair natural (Note that Ms. Underwood indicated that she would also wear wigs because she likes to "change up" how she wears her hair.)

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2. TheGanation
"right! a lot of us weren't raised to love our natural hair."

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3. ronniemonnie
"Not me! I always loved black natural hair."

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4. AshleyMorgan
"+ronniemonnie You are one in a million. Thats awesome that it was like that for you but for many we were taught to use a perm because our hair isn't manageable. It was a process for many but fortunately for me it was a quick one when I began to see the acceptance. I will tell you this, going through the phases like the big chop and watching your hair grow, taking the time out to treat it, style it, and rock it, it helps you build your confidence and also makes you appreciate and love your hair. I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeee my hair now and you can not tell me anything about it especially when the fro is picked out!!!!! MANNNNNNN LISTEN LMAOO"
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"Big chop"- "Big chop is the process of cutting off the relaxed or permed ends of one's hair when [a female] is transitioning from chemically processed hair to natural hair." http://www.naturallycurly.com/topics/view/big-chop-transitioning

'fro = afro (also called a "natural" in the USA since the 1960s). An afro ('fro) can be a hair style, or a number of natural hairstyles. But, people with afros can style their hair or have their hair styled in different ways that have their own names. Click http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/kinky-hair-type-4a/21-popular-natural-hairstyles/ for the article "21 Most Popular Natural Hair Styles"

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5. Chanda Chansa
"+AshleyMorgan
Am African and I don't understand some things: Why is black hair a sensitive topic for black Americans?"

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6. Chanda Chansa
"+Tiffany Williams
A lot of African women wear weaves as-well but black hair is not an issue there. Thanks for your explanation."
-snip-
Given the comments that I've read in various online YouTube (and other) discussion threads about the changing attitudes about natural hair in various African nations, I'm not sure that I agree with the blogger that
"black [people's natural] hair is not an issue" for "a lot of African women". I wish that the blogger had given the nation she was referring to.

"Weaves" = females wearing usually synthetic hair that is attached to their hair by braiding, sewing, glue or other ways

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7. AshleyMorgan, 2016
"+Chanda Chansa I feel it is such a sensitive topic not only because of the history but in modern day america we are told on a daily basis that out hair is not professional, it looks unkept, it looks nappy, etc. There are some companies and people that will not hire you solely based on your hair. We have been told that in order to fit in we have to conform to their standard of beauty because that is the only standard. Now many of us have taken measures to embrace and whole heartedly love ourself for who we are but then you have others who still haven't fully embraced who they are. …because …not all of us grew up being told that our hair is beautiful. Many of us don't even remember having our natural hair as children. It's deeper then this but If I try to explain it we will be here all day! lol I hope you are having a great day though!"
-snip-
This comment included the ...'s.

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8. coolingwinds, 2016
"I agree with pretty much everything you said. Back when the natural hair movement was just getting started, I was hanging on to my relaxer with both hands and all my might! Now I am happy to report that I've been natural since roughly 2007. It took me a long time to embrace it in myself let alone others because I came from that generation of relaxing, weaving, wig wearing black women. I recognize myself in her, and it's all good now that she's gone through her transition. People have to remember that's how many of us came up. As far as I'm concerned, all is forgiven. I'm just so glad that she now loves what God gave us, and she is beautiful!
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"going through her transition" = changing from wearing one's hair chemically treated or straightened (also known as "relaxed"; "permed", "done") with heat (a hot comb placed in fire or an electric iron) to wearing one's hair naturally.

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9. Nita Carter
"Omg this make me want to cry, cause I struggle with a lot with my hair. All my life my hair was always short, I'm not ashamed of my beautiful nappy natural hair, It's just I'm a big fan of weave so much that I forgot how beautiful natural nappy black hair is. I was never a girl who say disrespectful things about my race hair, I actually love seeing black woman wearing and showing their hair out no matter how it is or look, I love my race hair, cause we can do soooooo much with it. (And for the people that think black woman hair don't grow or say disrespectful things is crazy and f&&king* stupid cause it does grow and we actually have beautiful hair it's different), my hair today is near my neck and I love it, the other day I was thinking about taking my weave out but seeing this video got me like what m'I doing. If we see more videos like this, it will courage more black woman as myself to appreciate a lot of things about black beauty. By the way we shouldn't get defended if people say our hair is nappy because we have beautiful nappy hair that's just how our hair is and I love it. so f&&k* thoses who think nappy hair is a disgrace."
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* These words were fully spelled out in this comment.

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10. Jada Lee, 2016
"yes! ppl dont understand why im proud to say i have nappy hair. "nappy" is only as insulting as you make it. stay strong girl!"

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11. shortmonee 312
"Unfortunately, most (over 50%) of black American women hate their hair. I've noticed lately though a lot of sistas are going natural, and I hope the trend continues"

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12. imshrrj
"+shortmonee 312 This is true, but we're taught to hate our hair...By guess who??? grandma and aunties.. The things my family use to say about hair..just terrible"
-snip-
This is an excerpt of that comment.

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13. O-Ren Ishii
...[screen name of person this comment was written in response to] "everybody can't rock every natural hairstyle but I think everybody can pull off at least one of them. Everybody can't pull off the natural baby bush like Sheryl."
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"Bush" is a term that I remember being used in the mid 1960s (in Atlantic city, N.J) for short round shaped afros that Black male and Black females had. Since at least the 1990s, a much more widely used referent for a short afro ('fro) is "TWA" ("teeny weeny afro"). Women who do the "big chop" (read above) usually end up with a TWA. A number of women who have their chemically/heat permed hair chopped off, "rock" (wear) wigs until their natural hair grows a little longer than "twa" or until they learn to do different hairstyles with their short natural.

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14. Sharon Reid Robinson
...[screen name of person this comment was written in response to] "FREE COUTRY....NO PERSON CAN TELL ANOTHER HOW THEY SHOULD WEAR THEIR HAIR. IT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT. SHE MADE A MISTAKE IBY SAYING WHAT SHE SAID. I AM PRESENTLY WEARING MY OWN HAIR. I WEAR PERM, WIG, WEVE BECAUSE I LIKE VARIETY. MY HAIR CAME OUT BECAUSE OF SOME MED I HAD TO TAKE...I WORE A WIG...LOVED IT!!! WILL WEAR MY HAIR AS I WISH...DON'T THINK BLACK HAIR IS NASTY...I HAVE WHAT I CALL NAPPY PRIDE NO MATTER HOW I WEAR MY HEAR."

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15. MzVan21
"Wish more black women wear their natural hair...don't get wrong I like a sew in every now and then but Nothing like my hair that I was born with.yes I get tired of it sometimes,yes it takes a while to style etc but I wouldn't change it. its curly,thick, course.Black hair is DIFFERENT from any other texture..to me that's a great blessing. that we should embrace."
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"a sew in" - one way to attach synthetic or real hair to your hair

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16. Paris OfPhrance
"I'm on YouTube everyday it's not that different anymore lol follow naturallyshesdope on ig....very common"
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This is the complete comment.

"ig" = instagram (social media)

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17. Edward Lewis
"+MzVan21 Actually is getting more and more common everyday I mean literally my mom, two aunts and grandmother are natural."

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18. MzVan21
"+Edward Lewis I feel like it is definitely trending which is great,just hopes it sticks"

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19. NatuRealistic87 VeryKinkyCurl
"Also trending for white ppl to try to mock the afro & swear up and down that they have "black ppl hair"...but I do agree with u it is different & very unique."

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20. natrulyvivacious
"I don't have kinky hair but if I did I would be proud as Jesus has the same kind of hair biblically written even though they try to portray him with straight white people hair.
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"Kinky" is often used as a synonym for "nappy". However, some people in the natural hair care movement indicate that "kinky" is a different type of hair pattern than "nappy".

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21. TheKendroShow
"sadly the negative attitude towards natural hair is active and has a lengthy history. it takes some people time to wake up and I'm glad she did. fro looks real nice on her. all is forgiven"

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22. mashonda Knight
"As a black women I'm so tired about the whole hair debate people need to stop shaming people for how and what they do to their hair if they want to wear their natural, perm,weave, braids, fine I wish everyone would stop telling everyone what to do with their hair I say as long as it looks great so what I don't wear wigs, braids or weave and those things are nice I've seen people look nice in them and that's their choice but I do perm my hair and I like it ,I just think when it comes to hair that topic should be off limits! !"

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23. AmethystUniverse
"She looks gorgeous with her TWA :) and she seems really sincere this time around and I forgive her as well! #naturalhairrocks"
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Sheryl Underwood had apologized for her remarks disparaging Black natural hair in 2012 shortly after she made those remarks. This second apology was given during the nationally televised talk show where she is co-hosts with four other women.

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24. Africa Love
"I agree she seems more sincere "this time""

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25. Jamaican Diaspora
"I am happy to be nappy! No Korean is going to feed and cloth their children with my money from those nasty beauty supply stores in Black communities.
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Throughout the USA, for some reason/s, Koreans a have monopoly on Black hair care salons.

"I'm happy to be nappy" is a rather widely used saying, particularly among "naturalistas" (Black natural hair adherents). That saying was coined by bell hooks in her 1999 children's book with that title.

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26. patricia pritchett
"It's so crazy to me how 'my people' (not all, but many) think our hair is 'nappy', 'nasty', 'ugly', ect... I cant tell you HOW MUCH other races think that it's beautiful! Can't tell you how many times in a day they want to touch it, and compliment its beauty. I love mine!!! Hope that she is really embracing its UNIQUENESS..."

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27. Morris Pitts
"When did it become" brave" for Black women to wear they're natural hair ? I think you have to be brave to wear some of these F&&ked* Up wigs and weaves I see everyday."...
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*This word is fully spelled out in this post. This is an excerpt of that comment.

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28. Dark Witch
"+Morris Pitts Not all wigs and weaves look f&&ked up, unless you can not afford better or your ghetto as all out doors! I wear my hair natural but I like variety too. I would prefer that all black women go natural but they do not need to be limited, especially when many jobs frown on natural hair. We have to be versatile and wear many faces in this society. But yes, underneath it all a women hair should be natural and we should feel just as comfortable wearing it that way too."
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*This word was fully spelled out in that comment.

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29. Summers Journey
"+Morris Pitts I have natural hair, but why must a woman keep the same hairstyle? I find that boring. Part of the reason why I like natural hair is because it's so versatile. Sometimes I like to wear my hair in a fro, at other times I prefer more defined curls, and sometime I like to wear it straight. If I'm not in the mood to do my hair, I may throw on a wig, or get braids/twists."

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30. 827honey1
"She looks 100% prettier than she ever did wearing a weave or wig."

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31. sharp-jagger
"+827honey1 agreed. I did not criticize her in the past for VOLUNTARILY choosing to rock wigs, but I was shocked at her comments regarding natural hair. It seemed that there was this universal agreement that natural hair was synonymous with nappy and unkept. I think it took her some time to overcome the disparaging pre-programmed mindset of natural hair. She looks comfortable now."

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32. y tyler
"Thank you for uploading this video of Sheryl apologizing. As for her natural hair (the way she has it styled) looks uneven, some parts looks as if she tried twist it, some parts looks like she picked it out. This is not a TWA (teeny weeny afro), this is a mess.

Afros were in style when I (and Sheryl) was growing up and I never saw anyone at school, church, work, the supermarket or walking down the street, with an afro that wasn't perfect. Men would go to the barber shop and sit in that chair (for what seemed like an eternity) while the barber cut and snipped until the hair was in a perfect circle. Finally, he would spray the Afro Sheen on, and you knew you were ready for anything.

The girls, would plait their hair in four big plaits (or more if their hair was shorter) at night and then would take it out in the morning, tease it with a comb and then pick it out with a pick or pack it down into an even circular shape. Afro Sheen was sprayed on, and a thin layer of hair spray if needed. We looked so well-groomed. We even wore the pick in our hair so, if it got messed up, we could pick it back out to perfection. We took so much pride in our Afros, that non-black people wore their hair in afros, too.

I have never seen Sheryl wearing a wig that was cut, as uneven as her real hair is. So, she should come to the conclusion, that an even cut will make her natural hair look much better."...
-snip-
This is an excerpt of that comment. The blogger continued with off topic criticism about Sheryl’s weight and how the blogger thinks she acts on air.

"picked [her natural hair] out= used a wide tooth comb called an "afro pic" to comb out her natural

While I don't agree with the blogger's assessment that Sheryl Underwood's afro looks a mess, the blogger's comments about how people wore afros back in the day and plaited (braided) their hair at night etc. completely matches my memories of how African American females and males wore afros in the mid to late 1960s.

It seems to me that one of the greatest differences between afro hair styles in the late 1960s/1970s and afro styles in the 2000s is that it's considered stylish nowadays to wear afros out in public without combing the natural hair out while back in the day Black women (like me) who wore our hair in 'fros would always braid it at night so that the fro could be fuller, and not matted and then we'd take the braids out and "pic" (comb out) our hair before being seen in public- either outdoors or inside.

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33. Deborah Atkins-Denmark
"I forgive her, wholeheartedly. For a lot of us, the natural hair decision is a process, especially for us older sisters who were, from birth, taught to hate our hair. I believe she was both sincere and courageous. We should forgive her and embrace a new naturalista!!!"

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34. infinite1
"Why is everyone acting like we didn't go through hundreds of years of conditioning first? Our ancestors in this country had to adapt and conform to get us to a place today where we are alive and breathing. I never hated myself when I had a perm, it was what I knew because it was passed down from the former generations. I loved weave because it offered variety. As an older woman, it is the young who have really brought the natural hair forth and it is beautiful. Older woman like myself are still on a learning curve taking care of natural hair. Just 10 years ago, black men and women still shunned women with natural hair just like white people, so why in the hell, now that it is accepted everyone want to jumpn up and say you hate yourself for wearing your hair the only way you've known how for ages?"...
-snip-
This is an excerpt of this comment. The blogger continues by writing about how Black men need to stop hating each other and stop killing each other.

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35. kittenhoodie
"to be honest, a lot of African American women had the same negative views about natural hair. I can even say that I had negative views about natural hair for most of my life until about 6 years ago when I decided to transition. she was entitled to her opinion about it. I thought she was rude to Heidi Klum about her decision to hold onto her children's hair. if anything, she owed a huge apology to Heidi Klum because she was basically questioning aspects of her parenting. the women on "the talk" are very abrasive, and I wasn't interested in their views or that show way before underwood's natural hair controversy. the show is about differing views on current topics. we just aren't gonna agree with each other completely, and why would should we? some people question why it took her so long to basically come around to seeing how amazing our natural beauty is, and I think we should just appreciate that she in fact changed how she felt on the subject and move on. hell, raven-Symone says stuff on the view that it way more offensive and ignorant."

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36. kai kai
"i think her apology was full of sh&t!* saying black people hair is nasty is not a joke! i think she really felt that way why do you think black women wear tons of artificial white woman hair today...grown ass black woman all ways tell they children "yo hair so nappy! go flat earn it! ya head lookin a hot ass mess" for example blue ivy! black woman are dragging blue ivy through the mud just because they think her natural beautiful hair is "nappy". also why do 98.9% of black people think if a you have long curly hair that your mixed? why do i have to be mixed in order to have long hair? this also stems to why black people think mixed or "redbone" look best. all of this stuff have a deeper meaning!
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*This word was fully spelled out in this comment.

“flat earn it” = flat iron it” [iron hair= straighten [press] hair with a hot comb; a flat iron is a type of hot comb

"Blue Ivy" = Pop star Beyonce & Hip Hop star Jay Z's daughter

redbone = Black people who have a reddish hue to their light brown or "medium" brown skin color, usually because of racial mixture at some point in their ancestry

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37. Dark Witch
"+kai kai People need to forgive her because we all make mistakes, let's be f&&king* real! Blacks (with the exception of those who have always been natural)act as if they have always worn there hair natural knowing damn well that it is a self reflective process. Like you said, we should give our own people a chance to redeem themselves and forgive! The point is to lift our people up not tear them down ESPECIALLY if they are on the road to success. As a natural women, I can not stand when people tear down women who do wear weaves, and wigs or chemicals. We can be so unforgiving to our own people yet get made when other races are the same. That is called HYPOCRISY PEOPLE"
-snip-
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

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38. LuvJezula
"I forgive her, I think she's sincere. I see a lot of black women nowadays are embracing their natural hair or buying afro kinky textured weave. I hope that trend continues. yeah you are right when it comes to apologies. black people are quick to forgive white people when they say or do something racist but will be quick call a black person an uncle tom or coon, not forgive them and hold a grudge. personally I believe she hadn't made those comments and went natural anyways people would've made fun of her natural hair and say she looks like a slave, then these same black people would get mad at a non black person for trying to mimick natural hair and scream appropriation"

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39. Morgan :)
"didn't know she even said something bad about Natural hair and I forgive her. I do find it surprising because her Sorors and other ladies of the NPHC are natural so it was pretty shocking when she said that but as I digress I forgive her, she's my favorite comedian 💋💋 #TeamNatural #3YearsStrong"
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Sorors = a term used by members of historically Black Greek lettered sororities to mean "a sorority sister; a member of your sorority; members of other [historically Black Greek lettered] sororities; Note this term isn't used by historically predominately White sororities

NPHC= National Pan Hellenic Council - the governing body for the nine historically Black Greek lettered fraternities and sororities which are colloquially known as "the divine nine".

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2016
40. honey bebe
"I don't understand why people are trippin over the fact that it took her two years to apologize. Do they not understand that most people don't fall in love with their natural hair as soon as they do the 'big chop'? My mother went natural seven years ago. For the first four years she wore wigs. It took her a long time to accept her hair. After learning how to care for and style it, she came to ADORE it! Appreciate the fact that she was big enough to apologize in public. Most wouldn't even do it in private -let alone at all."
-snip-
"trippin" = African American Vernacular English term meaning "getting upset about", "going crazy about"

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41. Kay-Marie
"Why is it cool when some of us wearing natural but it's not cool when we wear relaxed or weaved hair?"

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42. Shon Hubble
"Some people are too narrow-minded and think that weaves and relaxers contribute to some identity crisis or self esteem issue. Weaves are beautiful, natural is beautiful, everything! As long as you have love for yourself, you will always be real no matter what is altered or added on.

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43. Kay-Marie
"+Shon Hubble Well Said! I relax my hair and I love being black."

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44. AWizardMummyandMartian ImUnique
"It's funny because black girls are buying afro texture hair now too. I thought of it but it feels so rough."

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45. AWizardMummyandMartian ImUnique
"Please stopl calling them European textured wigs, most hair comes from Asians or Native American women."

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46. PanamericanistaM0R3Na
"There is nothing wrong with the way our hair curls and coils.
Embrace it."

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This concludes Part I of this four part series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

7 comments:

  1. I think I see plenty of black women in Britain with natural styles. I haven't thought about it though. I think most black British actresses or TV presenters have natural hair, although that said I see nothing wrong with women, including black women, ringing the changes if they so wish. Some people really enjoy experimenting with different looks: some just like to find the style they think suits them best, and stick with it. It varies a lot from person to person how much time and money you want to spend on your hair.

    Obviously no-one should feel pressured into any style for cultural reasons.

    It's possible anyway to be dark-skinned and have naturally straight hair, and to be white and have very curly hair. Perhaps it doesn't do to be too dogmatic. A few years back I changed my hairstyle to a short, fringed bob with blond highlights because I liked it so much on Mavis Staples, a black American singer. But I never thought about what she did to achieve her look, or whether she'd inherited straight hair from some European ancestor. (Just now I searched for images of her and see that in the 70s she had her hair in the style we used to call 'Afro' - but maybe she had to perm it to get that look? I don't know.)

    I'm not sure that the adjective 'nappy' is used much to describe hair here in Britain, though it might be a usage among younger people. A complication is that 'nappy' is the commonest British term for what Americans call a diaper :)) (I remember pondering the lyrics of Stevie Wonder's 'I Wish' when I first heard them, what did he mean by a 'nappy-headed little boy'?)

    A friend from the Gambia felt under cultural pressure to have her hair styled in a more European look. She felt that gave her a more professional appearance, and that to go natural would subtly harm her job prospects. It was expensive and troublesome though, and she would often get it done while visiting family at home, as it was far cheaper than in English salons. Her hair did always look very groomed and attractive but she shouldn't have felt under pressure like that. Natural would have looked equally fine on her, but she obviously felt she was being judged.

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    1. Here a long response to your comments, slam2011 (I'll divide it into two parts)

      Part 1:
      "I think I see plenty of black women in Britain with natural styles....I think most black British actresses or TV presenters have natural hair"...

      It's interesting that there are a number of Black females in Britain who are wearing their hair in natural styles. Also, I'm surprised to learn that Black actresses and TV presenters in Britain wear their hair in natural styles. That's different from the USA.

      **
      I agree that a lot of females like to wear their hair in different styles. You are correct that some Black females have naturally straight hair or hair that is curly similar or the same as (most) non-Black people. Also, some White people have frizzy hair.

      I remember when I was in college being surprised when I went to a Black/Latina beauty salon in New York City and saw several White females getting their hair permed to temporarily make their hair straight.

      People who don't use chemicals or heat to straighten their hair can wear their hair in different styles. And sometimes some people with naturals wear wigs to change up their look. Some females with naturals also like to wear hair pieces including extensions, or color their hair, or add beads, cowrie shells to their natural hair, or wear a scarf, or a head wrap etc.

      Also, some females have decided to wear their hair bald- and that also is cool if that what they want to do.

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    2. Part II

      My position is "to each their own" meaning that after a certain age, individuals should decide how they want to wear their hair.

      That said, I recognize the positive cultural significance of Black people wearing our hair in its natural condition- and the healthy hair/scalp benefits of doing so.

      **
      "(Just now I searched for images of her [Mavis Staples] and see that in the 70s she had her hair in the style we used to call 'Afro' - but maybe she had to perm it to get that look? I don't know.)"

      For people with 4 type hair (a lot of Black people) and maybe also 3 type hair (I'm not a hair expert so I don't know), a perm temporarily straightens the curl/coil. Therefore when Mavis wore her hair in an afro, that was her hair's "natural" condition. When she wore a"short, fringed bob with blond highlights", her hair was permed (straightened).

      **
      "I'm not sure that the adjective 'nappy' is used much to describe hair here in Britain, though it might be a usage among younger people. A complication is that 'nappy' is the commonest British term for what Americans call a diaper :)) (I remember pondering the lyrics of Stevie Wonder's 'I Wish' when I first heard them, what did he mean by a 'nappy-headed little boy'?)"

      I had read that the word "nappy" means "diaper" in Britain. That definition is used by some Black Americans (UnitedStaters) who don't like the word "nappy" as a referent for the types of hair that many Black people have. Their position is that since diapers hold a baby's crap, calling our hair nappy means that we are saying our hair is crap. While, I respect their right to make that argument, I don't agree with it.

      But my suggestion is that people (particularly non-Black people) shouldn't use the word "nappy" and the word "kinky" to refer to Black people's natural hair since both of those words are presently considered derogatory by so many Black people (in the USA anyway).

      I personally use the term "tightly curled" and I sometimes use the term "frizzy" as referent to (most) Black people's natural hair. Also I think the word "afro-textured" that I came across while doing research for this series would be acceptable to most Black people (in the USA anyway).

      **
      Your Gambian friend's story is an example of the problems many Black females- and males- experience. She didn't feel like she was being judged- she was being judged.

      We have still have a long way to go.

      But one minor nit pick- the term "European look" should be "White (or white) European look" since there are Afro-Europeans and other People of Color who are Europeans because they (and often their parents etc) were born in Europe or because they moved to a European nation and are citizens there.

      Thanks for your comments!

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    3. One of the things I like most about your blog is how often it makes me check the OED for word meanings and derivations. I really like doing this :))

      And... you probably won't be surprised to hear that OED says there is no connection whatever between "nappy=diaper" and "nappy=curly". The first comes ultimately from "mappa", a Latin word for a large piece of fabric. Slightly changed, this entered medieval French as "nape", a tablecloth; and after the Norman Conquest the same term came into medieval English. "Nape" eventually gave rise to the word "napkin", for a much smaller square of fabric. And this was the origin of "nappy", which was a little napkin used as a diaper...

      But "nappy" meaning "curly" came from a completely different language, not Latin but German. The word "nap" originally described the soft fibres which were trimmed from newly-woven woollen cloth. (You still sometimes hear the very soft pile on textiles such as velvet referred to as the "nap" of the fabric.) So the adjective "nappy" meant "fleecy, fuzzy" and even "frothy": and it was applied in that sense to Afro-textured hair.

      So there we are, two words that look absolutely identical but have completely different meanings and origins. And that's what I like about English: it's mad.

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    4. slam2011, thank you for sharing these entries from The Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

      You wrote "And that's what I like about English: It's mad."

      I also like how the English language continues to change and grow. I even like the fact that the same word can have different meanings among different populations within the same nation at the same time as well as different nations at the same time- not to mention at different times.

      Take the word "mad". When you wrote "And that's what I like about English: it's mad", did you mean something like "It's mad cool" ("It's great")? or did you mean "It's crazy" or It's complicated"?

      At any rate, adding the different etymological histories of the word "nappy" for "napkin" and "nappy" for diaper and the word "nappy" for afro textured hair is greatly appreciated!

      PS: did the Latin word "mappa" for a large piece of fabric which gave us "napkin" and "nappy" (diaper) also give us the English word "map"?

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    5. Mad every way, mad in the sense of brilliant+unpredictable. :))

      Yep, 'map' and 'napkin' both derive from 'mappa' (Latin), a piece of fabric, because - and I know you're ahead of me here - "The transition in sense from ‘cloth’ to ‘map’ is probably due to the fact that early maps were sometimes drawn on cloth." (OED)

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    6. Thanks for that info re "mappa" being the root word for "napkin" and "map".

      The "brilliant" + "unpredictable" meaning explains the title of the 1963 American comic spy film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"- or maybe that title just means that the world (at least so many of the people in the world) are crazy.

      But not me or you, right? ;o)

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