We all the know the interaction. The nod, the smile, or for our elders the formal "hello, how are you?" It is not just embedded in our culture, it is obligatory. This is blacknowledgement.
We just got some new neighbors down the street, a black family. Now I don't know them by any means, but you better believe I lift my hand to say hey. Why? 'Cause we black.
I can recall walking with my friends of the caucasian persuasion and enacting blacknowledgement. Each time they'd drown in confusion trying to decode how I knew all of these seemingly random people. My response always made their head explode when I'd passively reply with "I don't."
From a young age we are unintentionally taught to greet people solely for being black. Of course, the greetings become more intimate as familiarity increases.
Interactions can even indicate levels of familial hierarchy. The first 10 minutes of any celebration/holiday/cookout is spent receiving kisses from your aunties, surprisingly non-awkward side hugs from your uncles, dapping up your wild ass cousins, and briefly sitting next to the elders in order to give and receive the most concentrated love and affection.
Oddly enough, you can often find yourself hugging someone because they met you once when you were two years old. "You probably don't even remember me, you were this big when I saw you." "Ya damn straight, Roberta. Absolutely no recollection of who you are." Sure it's meticulous and of course you're just trying to get a plate and pour up with your favorite cousin, but you never half step because at the end of the day it's all about respect.
This becomes instilled in us and as we get older; we carry these practices to spaces where our parents aren't around to check us. When you walk into a room full of people the first thing that you do is lend a general "hey everybody."
Even more important, it's critical for one to go out of their way to speak to the host. Whether it's a get together of about 10 or a full blown party of 50, you ALWAYS make it a point to say hello to the host. Because nothing is more side-eye inducing than hearing "How you go into somebody house and not speak to them?"
As I get older and wander around this world on my own, I find myself searching for the purpose of these rules. The most logical conclusion that I've reached is that it is a form of solidarity. Black people often go unseen or suffer from hypervisability. In which case, the way others perceive us may be determined before we even get a chance to open our mouths.
Blacknowledgement allows us to simply communicate that no matter how unfamiliar we are with each other...
I see you.
I love you.
I acknowledge you.
- The Good-Natured Troublemaker