Tag Archives: Paul Mooney

The misunderstood nap

8 Sep

This morning while doing my usual tour through the blogosphere, I stopped at blog that had a You Tube clip of Paul Mooney talking to a young woman about a wide array of issues. At the beginning of the piece Mooney makes mention to the young Black woman interviewing him that he knew she had a gig because she was employed and her hair was relaxed. (sorry, gotta grab mini-me from daycare so I am rushing and paraphrasing) It was a cute Mooney moment but for some reason its been on my mind all day.

Now I have been an unrelaxed aka no chemicals in the hair sista going on 9 years now, for the past 4.5 years I have been growing locs (dreadlocks) and for 3.5 of those years I have been free-forming (just wash, separate, oil and go, no other manipulation). My initial decision to stop relaxing was partially because I knew I might move to Maine and figured there would be few places to get my coif done on a regular basis; I was also tired of being a slave to the hair shop. See back in the day, I had a standing Friday afternoon date with my old beautician, every week for a wash/dry and curl and every 6 weeks for a touch-up. My hair care was written into the budget like the light bill and back then I was paying with tip damn near $50 a week to keep my hair bouncing and behaving. I pretty much just got tired and wanted to be free.

Now it took some time for me to make the leap, I did the weave thing for a while, tried braids but one day just got tired of it all and went to the shop and told ole girl to cut it all off, so I walked out with at best 2 inches on my head. When I got home, I could tell that the spousal unit was trying not to cry and when my Pops saw me he was so disgusted at my bald head he stopped talking to me for 2 weeks. Thankfully my Mom loved it so much that a couple of months later she too went natural though she later went back to relaxing because she got tired of my Pops bitching.

I learned early on that fear of the naps is real as hell and was reminded of that when Paul Mooney in his piece spoke of white folks fearing naps, yet I would add that I think more than white folks fearing nappy hair, Black folks are even more afraid of naps.

So today I found myself thinking back on my hair journey, early on in my nappy state, I became a militant nappy.. you know the type. The sista that judges everyone who is relaxed, thankfully that stage has long past and these days I got no issues with relaxed sistas, other than if you are going to be relaxed, take care of your hair. Now I admit when I see relaxed sistas with missing edges who want to look at me with a greasy look, I do get pissed. I also admit I don’t understand if you are going to be relaxed and only rock that one sad ponytail with the dirty pony tail holder, frankly that’s a tad gross. On the other hand if your hair is healthy and your style is fierce, you get a big smile from me.

However the loc journey has been a fascinating one since initially I had no idea where it would go, it was a month after my Mom died and I was having a JOB moment and just needed to do something, honestly I always thought I would have groomed locs since deep down I think I was scared of naps- what would folks think if I walked around with a heavy of openly nappy hair? Yet as the process went on and I got stronger, I started to care a lot less what anyone thought about my head. Shit, when you are a cocoa-complexioned sista, it ain’t like anyone is ever going to confuse me for being white. Back when I had straight hair, I would occasionally get mistaken for being Puerto Rican or Dominican and when I was young and still silly enough to not realize that there are folks from the African diaspora in both places, I used to think it was nice since maybe it meant I was less Black. (yeah, I know like I said silly thinking).

No, I no longer fear the naps but I do notice that folks both Black and white seem to think that a nappy haired especially a dread-locked wearing Black woman is a tad militant, and while I have militant moments truth is I am not militant. I sometimes encounter young Black women who express a desire to go nappy but are worried about how their naps will be perceived in the work world, to that I say yes you might put off some folks but truthfully someone who cares about what’s on your head rather than what’s in it is probably not someone you want to work for.

Nappy hair is misunderstood by most but for me I embrace it. Gotta run..

The N-Word.. Should it die?

18 Jul

So it turns out when ole Jesse Jackson was at Fox News network talking about Barack Obama’s nuts, that he may have also slipped out the ole n-word too. Honestly, I am not surprised, I guess if you are gonna talk about another man’s balls, why not drop the ole n-word in while you are trying to make a fool of yourself.

I am not interested in whether Jesse said it or not, but as I surf around in cyberspace, its been interesting reading various folks opinions on the use of the N-word especially as it relates to us Black folks using it. Before I start I must confess, I was raised by parents who made liberal use of the n-word, in fact I still try to tell my Pops that we aren’t supposed to use it and as he tells me “Why?. Good question, why aren’t we supposed to use it anymore.

I know, its a word laced with history and negativity. I technically know why we shouldn’t use it but as a reader and writer, I am not particularly fond of censoring words even ones that as a woman make me cringe such as c**t. Words are words on one level and they only hold power if we give them power, that said, if a white person were to haul out the n-word, I suspect that is a white person who would be tasting my red toes. No, that is definitely not what I am talking about, for me white folks don’t ever get to use the n-word, sorry, you just can’t….

That said, it seems in the Black community at times the idea of whether or not the use of the n-word seems to break down around class. See, back in my old neighborhood in Chicago, folks used the word and no one ever thought anything of it. However as I went to college and started interacting with more solidly middle class Black folks is when I noticed that if the word came up folks visibly got uncomfortable. I definitely noticed upon moving to Maine and interacting with Maine Black folks no one ever ever uses the N-word, I will admit that I still suffer lapses and occasionally the word comes out much like the b-word comes out from time to time. In my defense, I have a potty mouth in general, what can I say, cussing comes easy to me and I have to work at it much like I work at maintaining a decent weight.

A few years ago, comedian Paul Mooney who I love said he was no longer gonna use the n-word and truthfully I was bugged, I know it was in response to Michael Richards tirade at a comedy club a few years back. Clearly Richards was in the wrong using the word but did Mooney really need to retire the word? Mooney’s comedy came about in an era with great artists such as Richard Pryor and honestly I can not even imagine how funny Pryor would have been without the use of the n-word. Maybe that makes me small minded but its my feelings.

No, the current crusade against the use of the n-words by Black folks sometimes feels like a class struggle at its roots, I am not saying there are not working class Black folks who don’t cringe at the mere mention of the word but there definitely seems to be a connection with the more education/more income one gets, less of a desire to use that word.

Over the years, younger Blacks have changed the word from n***er to n***a, some folks feel it doesn’t matter since its still the same word.. yet on a certain level I am not sure its the same word. I wonder if its a way to reclaim it and use it in a way where we own it versus the traditional use where it was a label slapped on us. Just wondering out loud…

That said at the end of the day, I do think there are a lot more things to get pissy about than whether or not we should be angry about this word. I say for those in the middle class who get disgusted at the use of this word maybe we should look at the circumstances that continue to produce folks who cling to this word. I suspect that much like myself if one is surrounded by folks who no longer use this word that eventually it will fade away, there may be the occasional lapse but it will become less common.

So tell me should this word die?