THe NoD FacToR
Carleton University Ottawa, Canada 1997 was the first place I recall it happening. A really good female friend and I decide to walk through the basement tunnels to avoid the freezing ass cold, then I see him. A guy of the same persuasion as myself, BLACK, creeping up with whom I assumed was his girl. We are both engaged in conversation with our respective companions about to pass each other when I get this unfamiliar yet natural impulse to look at this dude, Nod my head and say, “What up?” He did the exact same thing at the exact same time, almost like we were both genetically coded to do so. My friend asked me who that was and I told her that I didn’t know. She asked why I did that and I told her that I had no earthly idea. That incident occurred almost two decades ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
I’ve walked by countless black guys in clubs but felt no need to Nod, but when a new black guy got hired at work, he acknowledged me before anyone else. Why is this? Is it because of the environment? The number of us in a place at the same time? Is it cultural? Would it still happen if we were from different cities or countries? The answer to all those questions is YES!
Here’s how it works: If you are a black guy and you see another black guy and you two are the only ones around, you Nod. For instance, if you take a trip to Italy and you and another black dude are staring at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you Nod. If you are at a parent-teacher meeting and there are only two or three black kids in the class, you find the dads and Nod. But if it’s all black kids in the class, you just chill. So environment and numbers matter. You aren’t gonna say what’s up to every negro in New York, but you damn well will in Tokyo.
Then there’s the question of why we do it, and why doesn’t anyone else do it? You know that movie ‘Wild’ starring Reece Witherspoon, the story of a white girl who goes on a crazy 1,000 mile hike to find herself and all that other bullshit. My girlfriend made me watch it which is something I may never forgive her for because it was so fucking boring and a complete waste of time but the one thing I noticed was that there aren’t any black people in it, for the simple fact that no black person would intentionally make their life more difficult. What does that have to do with the Nod? It’s an acknowledgement of the struggle. We know what the other guy goes through on a daily basis, and it lets us know that we aren’t alone and we get it. When you know someone else is fully aware of some of the madness that goes on around the world, it is very comforting. Now the one exception to this rule is the Africans. Yeah I said it and I’ll say it again; the Africans. They are on more of an ‘every man for themselves’ mentality. Can we really blame them?
As for why no one else does this, there is no answer. If you are a white guy in Kenya and you see another one, Nod and say what’s up. If you are Chinese in Finland, say what’s up to your peeps. In fact, if you are a white guy in Kenya and you see a Chinese dude raise your chin and let each other know what’s up. Ladies you gotta step up your game too, salute your fellow women. Trust me when I tell you that you will feel surprisingly good from such a simple act. Do like Mad Skillz and break that neck.