Nappy Headed Hoes. This is the latest slur being used in the popular media to describe women of color. For those of you who aren’t up on the controversial remarks made by nationally syndicated radio host, Don Imus the following clip will bring you up to speed: (or read an article, here.)
The National Association of Black Journalists and many other organizations are calling for boycotts of the show and its sponsors until Don Imus is fired. I’ve even heard that NBA players were being asked to boycott the radio station until Imus is removed. However, as Blackademics I want to go beyond the boycotts and the protests and interrogate Imus’ comments in the context of our perceptions of Black women.
This first thing I want to focus on is is that “nappy-headed” is used as an insult here, as if having nappy hair is a curse (God forbid we didn’t come out of the womb with a perm!) The extent to which Blackness is demonized in American society is exemplified with this comment. He goes on to say, “the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute”. Imus’ comments reflect the idea that nappy=ugly, and consequently, Blackness is ugly. By calling the Rutgers women hoes, Imus couples his racism with its deadly partner in patriarchy. I call the pairing deadly because it is this over-sexualization of Black women in American culture and in the media that rationalizes the disproportionate rates of rape, sexual assault and violence against women of color. Called “hoes”, these athletes, students, teenagers, WOMEN, are being demeaned and reduced to objects of sexuality for male exploitation. This mentality goes back to enslavement. So here we have Blackness, Womanhood, culture and the female body all being bombarded by this little phrase.
But what bothers me even more than Imus, is when I hear language like this from young brothers and sisters. It’s as if we’ve internalized the negative images of Black women that saturate the media and popular culture. How do we go about using this incident as a springboard to take the discussion a step further? Could (should) we use this to educate our communities and mobilize against violence against women?