Singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus was criticized after sharing a photo of Harry Styles on her Instagram Story Wednesday with the text “he wears this dress better than any of u nappy ass heauxz.” Cyrus’s post was made in response to a post made by right-wing commentator Candace Owens, where she criticized Styles’ choice to wear a dress on his recent Vogue cover, saying “bring back manly men.”
On Thursday, Cyrus took to her Instagram story again to apologize for her use of the word nappy, writing “i am mortified that i used a term without knowing the context and history, but i know now and i am horrified and truly sorry. i will never use it again.”
Now, let’s not beat around the bush here—Noah Cyrus using the word “nappy” to refer to a Black woman is racist. It might be unintentionally racist, but it is still racist.
I won’t bother speculating about whether Cyrus knew the specific history of the word “nappy,” a term rooted in slavery that has historically been used in a derogatory context to describe the coils and kinks of Black hair textures. But I will say that it doesn’t seem like an accident that she used that specific phrase, one that she does not seem to use often, in response to Candace Owens. Racism is not at all about intent.
Noah Cyrus might be too young (or too white) to remember this, but in 2007, the word “nappy” actually took the national stage after popular radio host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” (Apparently, fewer people had an issue with Imus calling the team of women “hos.”) When Imus, who was over 60 years old at the time, appeared on the Reverend Al Sharpton’s show to discuss the incident, he claimed that he hadn’t known nappy was a racial slur.
Sharpton’s simple response? “Nappy is racial.”
That’s right folks—using the word “nappy” to insult a Black person is racist, and before you “unknowingly” use a slur, remember that Google dot com is free.
Update: This post originally misstated Don Imus’s age in 2007. It has been corrected.