I live in Santa Fe NM and according to the National Census there are approximately 400 black people living in a town of 70,000 give or take a few. I have never felt or had any issues living in predominantly white communities and have been in an interracial marriage for more than 20 years. I like to call myself a chameleon, one who can adjust to being any and everywhere. Since I have lived in Santa fe, it is rare that I see any of the other 400 black folk who live here. I used to say that with 400 of us one would think a sighting would happen more often. People have asked me if I missed living around a lot of black people. I will admit after being here for a year, and traveling through the Atlanta airport, I was taken aback by seeing that many black folk in one place. It was akin to a little culture shock. I found the experience strange and intriguing as I had not seen that many black people in one place in quite a while. As a child I was always instructed by my parents that whenever you see another black person one must always speak. I followed that rule religiously and carried it with me through my adult years. It was kind of a ritual for members in a special club. It was one all of us knew. We began to call it the “nod.”
In conversation with a close friend of mine he confided that when he first saw me he wondered who I was and where I had been hiding. He was also African American and although we had spotted each other from time to time, we never spoke but we would nod. The nod says “I see you.” I have done the nod everywhere. It is quick, without conversation and offers an acknowledgement. Sometimes the nod leads to a deeper eye contact and eventual conversation. I have a few friends that have developed from the “nod.” The first time others unfamiliar with the ritual observe it, they assume the participants know one another. When my husband asks me “who is that?” he lets it go when I say “I don’t know.” It is a silent language and one that for many of us has been instilled early on. There have been times when some prefer to ignore the nod. Yes we have names for them that I will not divulge here. When we nod, we find comfort. We know we are not alone and we have kinship and sometimes we find a good friend. I feel honored to nod and receive the nod. I know I have been seen.