I fumbled a dap with another Black man the other day. I haven’t slept right since.

OPINION: The age-old tradition of dapping in the Black community was tested recently when I and another Black man failed in a way that let the ancestors down.

Black man dap, theGrio.com
(Photo by yurakrasil/Adobe Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I’ll be 45 years old in June. That means I’ve been involved in the game of dapping folks up for 30-plus years. I’m a dap savant. I have complicated daps I do with my kids. I know when to come in for the Black-man-hug dap or when to just pound it up. My dap game is legendary. The aliens will speak about my expertise and my excellence. 

That’s why what happened recently broke my soul in a way that would have disappointed Beyoncé: I fumbled a dap in public on a historically Black college campus. M.C. Hammer has a song called “It’s All Good” — this was not all good; it was all bad. 

Let me put you on to what happened, son. 

I recently had a guest speaker come to talk to the class I teach at Howard University about his writing journey and provide some insight and best practices for the burgeoning writers in the class. After the class, as is typically the case when there is an interesting guest speaker, some of the students stuck around to talk, and a few walked with us out of the building. Once we got outside, a conversation about hip-hop commenced, specifically the recent happenings of one J. Cole, aka Lightskinned Jermaine, and his mea culpa to Kendrick Lamar on the stage during his performance at his Dreamville Festival in Fayetteville, N.C. 

The conversation was good and spirited. Three of us were exchanging ideas and speaking to the power of the culture and where the culture could go. You’ve never seen a more important conversation on the sidewalk in front of Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications about hip-hop in your life. The hop was hipping and the hip was hopping. The Black excellence was on 10 and all who sauntered by were blessed to bask in the glow of this generational discussion about the most significant musical culture of all time. 

Whew. 

And then it was time to go. My guest speaker and my student dapped up, and it was tremendous. The timing, the execution … the precision; everything landed just as it was supposed to. It was simultaneously the most eventful and uneventful exchange of Blackness of all time. Birds didn’t chirp, but they also didn’t not chirp, ya dig? The ancestors were proud as they always are when a successful and powerful dap is executed amongst Black men. 

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And then it happened. It was my turn to dap up my student. Remember, now, that I’m a savant at dap. I’ve only been on the unsuccessful end of maybe a handful of daps in my entire dap-giving career. Even now, I have no idea what or why something went wrong, and it’s so infrequent that I think even Malcolm Gladwell would call them outliers. I loaded up my hand — I’d already stretched — and extended it in preparation for the dap that we all knew was coming. Except, somehow, I missed his hand. Or he missed my hand. Nobody really knows. But the recovery is where it all went downhill. In my complete disgust at somehow missing hands, I tried to change the dap mid-return into a pound, but he’d committed to a standard issue clasp-and-hug, so we missed one another a second time. What to do? Where do you even go from here? I’m not saying the guest speaker was judging, but I was judging so I can only assume that he, too, was judging. He was probably also confused; here were two Black men struggling to actually land the plane on a dap, one that both had presumably done an easy 10,000 times with no exaggeration. 

What happened as a finale will live on (and hopefully die) in the Black Man Dap Hall of Shame. Instead of completing the actual dap, some sort of limp-handed handshake that couldn’t be construed as respectful or intentional closed the moment. Even now, I’m utterly disappointed in how that happened. I don’t even know how to fumble a dap on purpose, so it happening on accident is even more confusing. I don’t ruin daps, and here I am, standing on a corner on one of the bastions of Black hope and excellence letting Nas down. Like J. Cole and his diss record for Kendrick Lamar, my fumbled dap has kept me up for the past few nights.

The good thing is that I’m now more intent than ever to not only never fumble a dap again but to impress all whom I shall dap going forward. The newspapers and almanacs will speak of my daps going forward. I pledge to be the best from here on out. They will call me Dapper Pan. 

And all will be right again.


Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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