Ainít Nothing Wrong With Nappy Hair!

Articles and features on black hair care and black hair styles.

Ainít Nothing Wrong With Nappy Hair!

Ainít Nothing Wrong With Nappy Hair!

A few years ago Don Imus, an American radio talk show host, angered people with the remarks he directed at the Rutgers womenís basketball team. He called them a bunch of Ďnappy headed hosí - not very nice at all!

Whatís not nice, of course, is calling a group of talented ladies 'hos' (whores) but there also seems to be a suggestion that having nappy hair (a derogatory term for black hair in its natural state) isnít ideal and that's what we want to tackle in this article.

Natural Black Hair
Black hair, in its natural state, comes in a variety of textures Ė from soft and wavy, as can be found on people such as the Fulani and Somalians, to the peppercorn textured hair of the Kalahari Bushmen.

Wavy Hair Medium Texture Black Hair Peppercorn Hair

Most Black people have hair texture somewhere in between, let's take a look at a few of the characteristics of this hair type:

- it locks and tangles very easily which is why braids and cornrow styles work so well on black hair: they don't unravel
- it doesn't grow so long and fast as other hair types which is good as it means new hairdos can be carried around for reasonable lengths of time (you don't want to spend hours on a complex style only for it to need re-doing a couple of weeks later!)
- it shrinks on contact with humidity/water

These characteristics aren't bad but they mean that natural black hair, if kept long, requires more time and effort than other types of hair (it certainly isn't 'wash and go'!). This was never a problem in traditional African societies where everyone was happy and proud about they way they looked, where they had the time to give their hair the attention it needed and where there were many solutions for keeping hair looking good and healthy.

traditional african hairstyle Braids traditional african hairstyle

Blacks in a White Society
But things were so much different when Africans were taken over to the Americas as slaves.

Being slaves one thing they didn't have was too much time to themselves, certainly not time to maintain intricate braids and fashionable hair cuts. For many, the skills and knowledge needed to keep hair at its best would have been lost.

But worse than all this was the attitudes of the slave owners. Anything deemed too African was banned Ė music, language, religion and of course traditional hair styles.

Europeans were assumed to be superior; the more like them a person looked (fair skin, straight hair) the more likely they were to be assigned the easier jobs in the masterís house: thus you had the concept of the House Negro and the Field Negro. As slaves they were all degraded, but the dark skinned, kinky haired Field Negro was certainly bottom of the pile.

It is from this that the shame/hatred of natural black hair has derived. So much effort went into devising ways to make Black hair look more European, far easier for those with 'good' wavy hair but for many Black (women) trying to grow their hair long, in the days before chemical relaxing and electrical straighteners, it would have been a troublesome nightmare.

Black Emancipation and the Civil Rights movement brought a growing pride in being Black and in the natural state of Black hair but it's still early days, the negativity towards natural Black hair is still lurking there in the background. Most high profile Black women in the States still prefer to relax their hair and you still get people bringing out those old insults.

Michelle Obama What do you think about nappy hair? Feel free to comment on the related blog topic: Traditional African Hair Styles
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