Have you been super sensitive to the way other black folks have treated you in the past few weeks? With everything happening around the country and around the world, our treatment and care for each other seems even more important to me. The girl behind the counter at your favorite fish fry spot with the attitude seems a little harsher, the neighborhood car mechanic who fixes cars for the low and offers his wisdom seems more precious, the elderly mother who keeps watch over the neighborhood seems to have wiggled her way deeper into your heart. It’s as if we’re smack dab in the middle of a Spike Lee movie, trying to get everyone to do the right thing.

If someone forgets to nod while walking past us on the street, the world feels a little colder.

black 'nod'
Photo: thelunchmovie.com

The black nod is the non-physical version of the pound or giving someone dap. It’s a (usually silent) acknowledgement of our existence, our commonality, our shared struggle and triumph. It goes deeper than a simple salutation. When I give you the nod, I’m telling you that I see you, you’re telling me that you see me, and in times of crisis, we’re assuring each other that we have each other’s backs.

My parents were the kind of people who spoke to everyone. I remember asking my dad why he sat on the porch, saying hello to every passerby. He would tell me, “There’s nothing wrong with speaking.” Much to my embarrassment, my mom would always strike up a conversation with someone in the grocery line. When I would groan and question her during the car ride home, she would tell me, “There’s nothing wrong with speaking.” Salutations such as the black nod, dap, the pound, even the way we shake hands or hug are all an integral part of black culture. It’s a small, yet consistent way that we show each other we still care about one another, and one of the last vestiges of black culture that I actually have yet to see appropriated.

This month, we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stevie Wonder’s song, “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” and it couldn’t be a more timely song. There is so much hate against black people (and yes, other groups, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now). We’ve read and shared article after article about self care, about finding our zen, about coping with trauma, about self love, about unplugging from the onslaught of tragic news to protect our psyches. The black nod is one small but important gesture to say that we’ll be okay. We’ll make it. We’re affirming it, even as we pass each other on the street. Personally, I feel like everyone needs a hug right now, but sometimes a nod is all you’ve got or all you get. That will have to do.

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