Welcome to the B side of What is a Blerd?
In case you missed part 1 (I recommend reading it!) a Blerd is a combination of the words Black and Nerd. This two-part article shares insight into our part of nerd culture mixed with black culture.
🎶“Come to hit you with this edition, it’s all brand New,
You’re through, I’m interplanetarian like Doctor Who
(Who? Who?) So who? (Who?)🎶
Now that Angel has shared her path; it’s time for me to tell my blerd story. I’m a kid from Michigan who grew up in a traditional black Christian home. Like most people, I assumed my life was a normal one. I was mistaken. I’m a copy of my mother. My father has had an immense influence on me, but I am my mother’s child through and through. My fandoms and interests spawn from hers. For example: my mother controlled the remote control, we watched what she wanted to watch or we didn’t watch anything. So many of my evenings were spent watching Star Trek, MASH, Cheers, Spenser: For Hire, Rockford Files, The Fugitive, and other shows. Star Trek by far dominated the TV and it became my entry point into blerdom. My love for the Enterprise and her crew splintered into a love for sci-fi, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who.
Other aspects of my blerdom were established at a young age. Violin lessons, constant reading, arcades, LEGOs, and comic books. As I grew my blerdness flourished but was mostly unseen by the world. See, my family moved a few times and I changed schools roughly every two years. Add in some racism to the mix and it was a struggle for me to make friends who would actually see my blerd side. To the world I was an archetypical black kid. They didn’t know about the violin, Star Trek, gaming, Malcom X and Shakespeare I was reading. They saw an above-average black kid athlete. A black kid who loved his Detroit teams, played every sport, and dominated most of them. Basketball, football, track and field, wrestling, baseball, and soccer. At show-and-tell kids brought in their 4 to 5 trophies and medals they won. My accolades filled a duffel bag of dominance.The exposure of others to my full world is when I realized I was a black nerd. I wasn’t Urkel but I was fully nerd.
There were the other stereotypical things as well that hid my blerd status. The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince and Martin (even though I wasn’t allowed to watch Martin … shhhh). I loved gospel, Motown, hip hop, and R&B. I wanted to rock J’s with Cross Colors. But as I grew and the preteen and teen years kicked in, my blerd self became more and more exposed. Adults took a liking to me as I could converse with them on their level. I understood the references to Star Trek, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Good Times, and What’s Happening. That didn’t help me keep friends my age.
Eventually, kids would come to play at my home and that was a two-edged sword. When you first arrived you saw the basketball hoop over the garage. Inside was my violin which I had to practice—company there or not.
The exposure of others to my full world is when I realized I was a black nerd. I wasn’t Urkel but I was fully nerd. That realization hit hard when I discovered that the culture was not accepting of everything that I was. Good grades, that wasn’t hood. It wasn’t G. Classical music, violin playing…that’s for white folks. At that time pop culture didn’t help blerds, black television and film poked fun at the non-stereotypical black male—if they showed one at all. Nobody wanted to be Carlton Banks, you wanted to be like Will Smith. The media entrenched these images into white minds, minds that had little to no personal exposure to black people. When they interacted with blerds they were confused if you couldn’t rap, breakdance, dunk, or know how to roll an L. This left blerds in a state of isolation, unable to fit in with black people cause of “white” interests. Unable to fit in with white people for well … reasons.
Things get really interesting in blerd dating. The preconceived cultural ideas really can make things interesting when you start to expose yourself to others in the dating world. For example, the rage I expressed and embarrassment I’m sure my date endured in 2000 when we saw X-Men and I was being that obnoxious black man in the theater angry about continuity and casting. “WHY IS ICEMAN A KID??!!?” Yup, I yelled that, quite loudly. “Where is Beast? Where is Angel? This is some bull.” I went from being a suave (I tried at least) young man on a dinner and movie date to a raging blerd who would have walked out of the theater if I wasn’t on a date. My date’s response, “I didn’t know you were into the X-Men like that?” Of course I am, why would I see the movie if I wasn’t a fan? If my passion was over an NBA or NFL game (which happens often, mind you) no one would bat an eye. But such passion over a comic book movie gets the side-eye. Years later I discovered one way to turn off your non-geek girlfriend is to make a deal where she wants you to watch Sex and the City with her but she has to watch what you want to watch. Much to her chagrin, you pop Full Metal Panic! into the DVD player. And she’s never seen anime before. Then comes the question, “Are you sure you’re black?”Modern blerds don’t have to conceal their fandoms. They are fortunate to have social media as an outlet and place to congregate.
This is a summarization of what I call the OG blerd experience. Those born in the ’70s, ‘80’s, early ‘90’s. The late ‘90’s and after are modern blerds. They grew up with OG blerds as elder brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, moms and dads who indoctrinated them with our culture mixing. What was an underground culture amongst black folk was breaking out to the surface. In my youth, 2 or 3 of my friends knew about anime. Now DBZ is often viewed as a rite of passage. Modern blerds don’t have to conceal their fandoms. They are fortunate to have social media as an outlet and place to congregate. Despite the advances in acceptance, blerds still deal with the “black folk don’t do that”, why you acting white”, “You know about ___?”, “Black people play that?” stigmas.
I’m 37 years old my story isn’t over and the blerd culture continues to grow and evolve. Thanks for taking a peek inside the dichotomy that exists within the blerd experience.
This is the second of a two-part series on blerds. You can read the first by Angele Joubert-Johnson here.