Whitman College is a small liberal arts institution in Walla Walla, Washington. It was established in 1859, in honor of Dr. Marcus Whitman and Narcissa Whitman — Christian missionaries who were killed in 1847 by a group of Cayuse Indians in a massacre aptly named the Whitman Massacre. (Apparently, the Cayuse believed the Whitmans were poisoning them. Perhaps they just offered them some really shitty potato salad.)
Anyway, Whitman College's harrowing founding history was not something I anticipated learning when doing some research on it this morning. But, it didn't surprise me. American culture is predicated on us honoring, celebrating, and valuing things that exist as a result of some truly horrendous shit happening. If the name of your city is some mundane shit like Williamstown, it's probably either because 88 members of the Williams family were decapitated there 300 years ago or the Williams family were the ones performing the beheadings. Six days from now, we're going to rock our best pastels and glaze our fattest hams to celebrate the 2016th anniversary of the kidnap, trial, torture, and murder of a guy who just wanted to drink wine with his buddies. (Shit, even the fun children's activity associated with this event — the Easter egg hunt — is ultimately us kidnapping baby chickens and hiding them in futons and Auntie's wigs.)
Dap — the occasionally labyrinthic and always entertaining manner Black men often use to greet each other — also stems from some truly fucked up shit happening.
The dap originated during the late 1960s among black G.I.s stationed in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. At a time when the Black Power movement was burgeoning, racial unrest was prominent in American cities, and draft reforms sent tens of thousands of young African Americans into combat, the dap became an important symbol of unity and survival in a racially turbulent atmosphere. Scholars on the Vietnam War and black Vietnam vets alike note that the dap derived from a pact black soldiers took in order to convey their commitment to looking after one another. Several unfortunate cases of black soldiers reportedly being shot by white soldiers during combat served as the impetus behind this physical act of solidarity.
Basically, dap started as a result of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War getting shot and killed by their own damn team. (The level of fuckshit Black people have had to go through here never ceases to amaze me.) So, when I see our people and our president giving dap — and when I see hilarious skits based off of our president giving dap — I can't help but get verklempt. Which is exactly how I felt this morning when seeing a clip of Whitman College assistant basketball coach Stephen Garnett performing intricate daps with each of his players.
This coach has a different handshake for everybody on the team
Posted by Black Adam Schefter on Sunday, March 20, 2016
And yes, just like the Key & Peele skit, the most sophisticated greetings seem to be reserved for the Black players. Which, I presume, wasn't intentional. At least not on his part. But what likely happened is that the Black players just took it a bit more seriously. Took a bit more time thinking of, practicing, and rehearsing the daps. Because expressing and acknowledging the uniqueness of their connections — regardless of how frivolous and fun and silly they happened to be — just mattered a bit more for them. Because that connection — and the fleeting protection the connection provides us — just matters a bit more for us.