“Do all black people know each other or something?”
I’m sure many of my melanin-challenged friends have asked themselves this question when in my company, another black man walks by and they witness “the head nod.” Do they feel as isolated as I feel when they talk about Seinfeld and Friends episodes? I dunno. But what I do know is that the head nod is almost genetic amongst the community of black men.
What does it mean?
Generally speaking, a head nod can mean a multitude of different things to different people. To some it is a gesture of agreement, to others a gesture of respect, but within the black male community it is a gesture of acknowledgment. A way of saying, “I see you…” or “Wassup!” Not only is it friendly and efficient, its also pretty inconspicuous way to connect. Black people in America have always been familiar with creating coded interactions that are out of band for other cultural groups. Negro spirituals and the constant creation of clever slang can be added to the list. Oppression, at a very fundamental level, fuels the perceived need to secretly communicate.
Truthfully speaking though, the head nod is not done primarily out of need or oppressive factors, but more out of familiarity amongst black people and camaraderie. Which is why, if you are black, you should do it everywhere you go! Not just in America, but everywhere. It’s a great way to create connections and build bridges with people like you. It may not turn into a full conversation or an exchange of social media handles, but at the very least it will leave you with a small feeling of community. Lack of unity and isolation from each other is a major issue we deal with everyday as black people. We in large don’t like to buy things from each other, when we get successful we don’t like to live around each other, and rarely directly engage each other as black people…and that shit needs to change. A swift head nod is an easy way to start breaking those walls down that prohibit consortium.
So if you see me lift my chin and say “What’s good.” Don’t be lame… we’re fam.