It’s the handshake. That convoluted meandering of hands that ends in an embrace. . .a hand embrace. . . followed, sometimes, by a variety of chest bumps. There is creativity to a dap. It’s an expression of friendship. A white handshake is an expression of acknowledgement. Giving dap is beautiful (actually dap in Vietnamese means beautiful). It’s remarkable. It’s as American as apple pie, hot rods or baseball. However since its inception—the first time two blacks decided to do more than greet each other like whites—it’s been kept “in the closet” . . .something blacks do.
I spoke to an all black school district in Washington D.C. in 1974 about an elementary school curriculum I had authored. Afterward, a very engaging man came up to me and introduced himself. We shook hands. We talked about teaching black children. We talked about our families. We bonded. I flew to Washington a month later. He met me at the airport. I held out my hand and he shook my hand sideways. . .sort of vertically in a hand hold rather than a hand shake. He smiled, showed me a continuation; a finger snap, an “explosion,” a “wipe,” a “knuckle bump.” Cool. He said that this is the way friends shake hands in his neighborhood. I was a friend. He didn’t call it “giving dap” back then. We were just special friends, sharing a symbolic bond. I felt particularly welcomed. Later I learned some people think it stands for dignity and pride. I’m alright with that.
Little did I know that that gesture could become a national symbol of solidarity in this country. That the wife of our president would dap her husband (Can you imagine Eleanor Roosevelt dapping Franklin?). That today white politicians would be falling over themselves to give dap to a constituent. . .maybe even the president.
Our world is changing, it always is. Those that resist it or demean the change help us to more carefully define it, and defining change is a prerequisite to acceptance. My dad hated Rock and Roll. Said it wouldn’t last. He thought the Beatles didn’t know how to sing and they were just a fad. . .that Viet Nam would teach those Commies a lesson. And the dap? Isn’t that the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen? he said. He passed away in 1990 with nary a knuckle bump to his name.