The Dap: Assimilation in Reverse

We’ve all come to appreciate the ubiquitous and dynamic dapping routines. The vertical fist taps. Complicated hand slaps and snaps. The arm-wrestling grip followed by the forearm chest bump. Perhaps ending with a series of energetic back slaps. (Mostly) men expressing affection and support for one another. It’s a beautiful thing.

This is a whole new world. Born in the battlefields of Vietnam where black soldiers fought both the enemy in the fields and racism in their own ranks, black men found a way to say, “I’ve got your back. We can get through this.” And it is still with us today as a way to present positive nonverbal messages.

Just a few decades ago, all we saw were the slightly fossilized handshakes and the occasional European kiss-kiss (that many Americans stumbled their way through). The standard handshake is still the primary protocol in most of the business world.

Although dapping is not a universally consistent routine, its message is generous, intimate and often personal. “I’m not above you. You’re not above me. We’re side by side. Together.” It moves into open signs of affection like hugs and solid pats on the back.

Elaborate examples of dap are observed as NBA pregame rituals, psychologically preparing the players for the game. White players, often in the minority, have found themselves having to assimilate into the black culture. It can be awkward. But the spirit remains true. We’re in this together.

Golden State Warriors player, Omari Spellman, said. “I’ve had somebody try to shake my hand and I go in for a dap, and then I turned to shake their hand and then they go to dap, and then it’s awkward. And now we’re just like reaching, trying to shake each other’s hand, and it’s like all right, then you just kind of keep walking.”

“You get into these situations where you actually have to think about how you’re shaking each person’s hand,” Warriors Coach, Steve Kerr (who is white) said. “Fellow white guy, do you give him the traditional white-guy shake? Do you give him a bro handshake, with a half hug? Do you go the full black-guy shake, do you finish it out with a full handclasp, or do you just go into a white-guy shake from there?”

Ahhh. a greeting that requires us to think about the identity of the person in front of us. That’s a great thing.

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