B is a Black student at USC. In her free time, she enjoys dancing in a club on campus. B has always been close with her family, especially her grandparents, who lived through segregation in America.
According to B, every time her grandparents or her parents saw another Black person, they would nod their head as a way to say “I see you” or show recognition. Though B claims there isn’t as much weight put on the gesture now, it’s still a big part of the older generations because it’s a way for them to acknowledge other people.
Gestures are an important part of folklore, and for some cultures, the same gesture can hold more weight than it does in other cultures. In Black folklore, the head nod is a way to acknowledge and recognize other Black folks. The gesture was an important part of folklore during segregation and the decades after because it was a way for Black people to find community in spaces where they weren’t stripped of it. The gesture is still prevalent in Black folklore, but it doesn’t hold the same weight as before given the difference in racial tension and conflict between then and now. For other communities, a simple nod to someone else is given without a second thought. But for Black Americans, the nod is to make sure other Black folks feel seen.