The Bump Heard ‘Round the World

Why you should be celebrating the anniversary of President Obama’s famous dap for the Democratic nomination.


Where were you for the fist bump heard ‘round the world? The dap that changed America? The knuckles that knocked these United States into a new post-racial era?

More formally, where were you when Barack Obama was crowned as the Democratic nominee for the president of the United States?

Remember, this was pre-Palin and before the financiapocalypse; before bailouts became buzz-worthy and before Tim Geithner and Sonia Sotomayor became household banter. It might be a strain, but go back a year ago—to June 3, 2008—when hysteria over "The Obama Pound” first ensued.

Moments before taking the stage to deliver a speech that needed to claim victory and unite a fractured, primary-fatigued Democratic Party, a weary but elated Obama got one last gesture of moral support: His wife, Michelle, looked her man in the eye, mischievously stuck out her right fist and gave him a solid pound.

This June 3, a group of media and design impresarios are promoting “National Fist Bump Day” in honor of the anniversary. They want to celebrate a new iconic American expression of authenticity, political transparency and of course, change we can believe in.

"The idea behind National Fist Bump Day is to give Americans a chance to make the world a slightly better place with a simple and fun gesture of respect," says David Weiner, one of the organizers, along with Sarah Greenwalt. “It may not solve the world's problems, but it can at least reaffirm the fact that in the end, we all can get down with each other.”

This mainstream outreach may seem warm and fuzzy now, but at the time, some writers wondered if white folks had even noticed the gesture. And oh, they did. (To the point of not even paying attention to the perhaps more dubious booty-love tap that followed right after.) For a fascinating few weeks, the fist bump, a functional, hyper-hygienic descendant of the handshake and high five, was the topic du jour around America's water coolers. First came the blogs and tabloids, both here and across the pond. Then came the satirical cover of The New Yorker depicting the first couple as a Muslim Constitution-burner and an Angela Davis wannabe. This controversial image inspired parodies of the parody. And of course, the conservative response to Hurricane Obama made the whole thing feel like a game of “telephone” gone wrong: Fox News host E.D. Hill asked on-air, with fevered eyes: “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?”