If you’re black, you’ve probably had a non-black person question, “who was that?” or “why do you say hello to every black person you see?” These questions generally pop up right after you’ve given what is known as The Nod.
I don’t know the origins of The Nod nor do I think it was ever fully explained to me why it is done. All I know is that I’ve been giving The Nod to random black strangers since I was kid.
If I had to explain the significance of The Nod, I would say it is a gesture that says “I see you” to a fellow group of people who have been viewed as second-class citizens or property. It’s a form of respect. It’s a bond between people that have been marginalized and still deal with modern day challenges like Ferguson.
The Nod was so ingrained into my daily habits that I continued to give The Nod to those who looked like me when I first moved to Italy. That’s also when I realized The Nod is truly a “Black thang” or I should say an African-American only thing.
I still remember the first time I gave The Nod in Italy. I was so excited to see a group of African women my first weeks in Rome that I decided to show my respect by giving The Nod. Instead of reciprocating, they looked at me as if I had mistaken them for someone I knew or that I’d lost my mind. I brushed off that first incident as an off moment. However, after the second, third, fourth, and fifth time of getting the same reaction, I got the message loud and clear: “You are not one of us and we do not partake in your silly American rituals.”
I was as pissed as one slightly bougie black girl can get (translation: not like I would dare say something out loud to them, but internally I was thinking ‘oh no they didn’t’). That’s when I realized I was on my own unless I ran into some Black American roaming the streets of Rome.
When I got back to the United States things went back to normal and The Nod was back in full effect or so I thought. Even my new favorite TV show, Black-ish, was covering the importance of The Nod. This got me thinking about how many times I had recently given The Nod to young Blacks and I got random stares back. Was The Nod an old school thing? Did my generation not pass this tradition down to our younger brothers and sisters?
Then I realized it wasn’t just the youth, but other Black Americans my age or older who were diverting their eyes when I tried to give them The Nod. Had we assimilated so much that we no longer felt like The Nod or the acknowledgement of seeing another Black American was important? Or were they worried that I’d hit on them or worse, I could be a Jehovah Witness?
Honestly, I really need someone to explain why a tradition just as relevant as Kwanza or celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day is dying in our culture. Losing The Nod is like the Italians losing the double kiss! Ok, that’s not a perfect analogy, but I seriously question what it means to lose our silent bond as an ethnic group. Is the fabric of our collective history tearing away one diverted eye at a time?
Maybe I should start a ‘Bring Back The Nod’ campaign to bring back the respect amongst my peeps when we see each other on the streets. There is just too much going on in this world for us to lose showing and giving respect to each other. We need each other! Thoughts?