Nappy-Headed Hos

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Don Imus, one of the most popular radio personalities in America, has recently come under fire for some comments he made about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, calling them “nappy-headed hos.” I flinched when I heard this because it sounds racist…something the Al Sharptonns of the world have agreed with. Rev. Al is even calling for Imus to lose his job over these remarks. And maybe he should…but I had to sit and think about this before determining if Imus overstepped the line. And if so, how far?
First, I googled the word “nappy.” I never even knew the word “nappy” until I began listening to rap where you never heard the word nappy without “ho” following it. Well, upon googling the word, a site that popped up is:

This site is dedicated to celebrating the natural hair of African Americans and those of African descent. “Nappy” was used in a positive, empowering way-the word was embraced to the extent that “nappy” was used in the title of a chapter of “Chicken Soup for the African American Soul.”

Until I looked over the site, I always thought of “nappy” as derogatory. Now? Not so much. If Imus used it in a derogatory way, and that way was intended to be offensive to African Americans, then his apology is just. To dissect this a bit more, he referred to the team as hos. Of course ho is insulting! But this is the man who, on a daily basis, refers to politicians as fat losers and lying weasels-and those are the terms that I’ve heard from his mouth that are actually fit to print! Imus calling someone a ho isn’t uncommon. And nappy, as I’ve discovered, doesn’t have to be derogatory.
Where does this leave us? With Imus’ apology where he said it was an idiotic comment, which he intended to be amusing. It wasn’t. Only he knows if it was purposefully intended to hurt minorities, but either way, his “idiotic comment” has now educated me and I hope I’ve helped you learn a little something, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. I have seen Imus a few times and it seems he does indeed speak disparaging of groups of people – most all people! I did not see this incident – and I guess I’m wondering what the context of was? The term “nappy” (interesting points you made about that!) is probably not the kindest thing for an old white guy to say – but it’s really the term ho’s that seems completely unjustifiable. I don’t automatically think Imus is a racist pig for using a term he probably heard in a rap song or comedy bit – but it does seem a very stupid thing to do. Of course, he’s getting so much publicity maybe it was simply a brilliant marketing ploy!

  • Susabelle

    It’s not that the word is not okay, it’s the context, and who says it.

    It’s perfectly okay, apparently, for young black men to call women “nappy-headed ho’s.” It’s not okay for old white guys to do it.

    We can apply this same philosophy to other words that are perjorative to some, but not to others. There is a time and a place for everything, and Imus stepped over that line, saying it in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

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