A black man walks into my barber shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side and removes his hat, revealing hair that is thick and tightly coiled. There's usually a hum of hair clippers buzzing through the loud bachata music in the shop, but the moment the man walks through the heavy glass door, a silence seems to befall the place.
"Este muchacho tiene pelo malo," one of the barbers says to the others, shaking his head. But in English, the barber doesn't tell the man his hair is bad (malo).
Instead, he says, "Your hair ... it's ... ehm ... nappy, yes?"