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Nerd like me
December 9, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Coming Out of the Black Nerd Closet: A Meditation
posted by Brandon Blatcher (45 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
My nerd closet is magenta.

/goes to read article
posted by omnikron at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2011


Some of my best friends are black nerds*.




*joking, but not kidding
posted by louche mustachio at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2011


That was fantastic. This really rings true, sadly:

My experience of surprising White folks has continued my whole life. When I strike up a conversation at the grocery store or the mall, and I tell them I’m a tenured college professor I always get “the look.” A couple of times, I’ve even had White ladies–strangers– say to me, “Oh, I’m so proud of you!”
posted by naju at 10:13 AM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


This makes me happy :)
posted by joboe at 10:19 AM on December 9, 2011


Thank you; I really enjoyed reading this. I wasn't familiar with her before so I really appreciate being ontroduced to her work!
posted by pointystick at 10:20 AM on December 9, 2011


Some of my best wives are black nerds.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:33 AM on December 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


A couple of times, I’ve even had White ladies–strangers– say to me, “Oh, I’m so proud of you!”

Oh fuck, yet another thing in my invisible knapsack is that I've never experience anything remotely that patronizing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


But I never thought I would discover a Black nerd community. I knew there were individuals who felt like I did, but I didn’t know we all were lonely and isolated, faking the funk, as it were.

This is kind of a thing for nerds in general these days, the feeling of being an outcast who doesn't fit in with everyone else is kind of a core aspect of nerdiness, but these days subcultures that would be very small or non-existent in a single geographical area are much larger online. In the old days it was possible to feel like you were the only one who watched some obscure show or spent time on an unpopular hobby, but now it's much easier to form a community around something that only a relatively small number of people are into.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:40 AM on December 9, 2011


Well, as a white guy who unabashedly geeks out on African American culture stuff, thank you for introducing me (through this FPP) to the National Black Programming Consortium. There's some super interesting-looking stuff there.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 10:40 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. Just a moment ago, I was talking with my friend Jamal, who was telling me how much he loves blasting the "Flash, Aaa.. " when he's in a car.
posted by jonmc at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The obligatory treatment of this subject by the Onion is also pretty great.
posted by clavicle at 10:49 AM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


The We Nerd Hard podcast.
posted by yeloson at 10:51 AM on December 9, 2011


This is a really good read.

I will be checking out this recommendation from the article (Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry), having read a fair number of "environmental history, and history of naturalism, and history of environmentalism" texts, something I noticed is that there is a pretty consistent, and glaring ignoring of the idea of African American writing on nature.

The idea of spaces for infra-cultural difference to grow and thrive is such a powerful one... an idea whose time has come, and specifically, very well put in this article; essentiallization (expectations, or demands, both by in-group members, and outsiders can and do severely limit, and restrict people). It happens frequently (surrounding most social, cultural or categorical affiliation groupings, but seems to be extra-prolific around demands and forced expectations placed on Black folks. Whoever is doing it, it stifles.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:54 AM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just got so tired of the surprise on their faces when I mentioned that I had read—not just heard—about Tolstoy.

FWIW my face would register surprise upon finding out that any of my friends has read-not just heard-about Tolstoy.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:11 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell: "FWIW my face would register surprise upon finding out that any of my friends has read-not just heard-about Tolstoy."

Hah, I was just about to say the same thing.

This is really good, but I'm always kind of put off by one thing that seems to crop up a lot in writing about finding one's racial or cultural identity; The notion that Dating Outside Of The Race (sic) is somehow abnormal. That whole idea just makes me uncomfortable. Is it just me? Am I missing the point here?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:31 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mick Collins.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:34 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at the wedding of a black nerd this summer. He married a white gal. The vast majority of his friends are white, but I've never had any sense that he was trying to be anything less than himself.

From my point of view, he's had gals throwing themselves at him as long as I've known him, but I'm sure he's got a different take. It's not like I've ever walked in his shoes.

But yeah. Geek. Geek wedding. And by "geek," I mean it was all suits and ties and dresses and dignified surroundings, and then the judge officiating the wedding made everybody shout, "SO SAY WE ALL."

Before the ceremony, my friend's dad pulled him aside and said, "Son, I've just gotta ask...you and I are gonna be the only two black men at this whole thing, aren't we?"

My friend sighed and smiled. "Yeah, Dad."

His dad sighed and smiled. "Okay," he shrugged.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:41 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it just me? Am I missing the point here?

People are afraid of the list of cultural heritage, due to dating outside the group.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2011


Well, in my experience of the word 'nerd', it has not included English professor poets. I guess her experience has been different.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:12 PM on December 9, 2011


Has anyone thought of a "urban-themed" role-playing game, something instead of "Dungeons and Dragons", more along the lines of "Ghettos and Gangstas"?
posted by Renoroc at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2011


I thought this was going to be a review of the new Childish Gambino album. Which is excellent by the way.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


FWIW my face would register surprise upon finding out that any of my friends has read-not just heard-about Tolstoy.

Even if it was a smart, well read friend who was in Graduate school? I think her point isn't "hey I read Tolstoy" It's more like, people often are blinded to obvious signifiers of who you are and what you're about due to the color of your skin.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


FWIW my face would register surprise upon finding out that any of my friends has read-not just heard-about Tolstoy.

Really? Kids these days! Anna Karenina is basically a serialized pulp romance; it was an Oprah book club selection too!
posted by yarly at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2011


"Has anyone thought of a "urban-themed" role-playing game, something instead of "Dungeons and Dragons", more along the lines of "Ghettos and Gangstas"?"

...Shadowrun?
posted by subversiveasset at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has anyone thought of a "urban-themed" role-playing game, something instead of "Dungeons and Dragons", more along the lines of "Ghettos and Gangstas"?

Regular D&D isn't really racist enough for me, so I'm very interested in this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2011 [22 favorites]


Even if it was a smart, well read friend who was in Graduate school?

Yes. I don't have too many friends who are in / went to Grad school (and those who did went to art school), but if any of them were like, "oh I was reading War and Peace the other day..." I would absolutely be surprised. Of all of my friends I would guess exactly one of them has read Tolstoy and that's because as a Great Books major, I'm assuming he must have. I'd guess 4-5 of my friends have read Dostoyevsky. But Tolstoy? No. I understand her point but it is a bad example.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2011


I'm not black so I can't speak to this directly, but that's part of why her mention of "the look" stood out to me... it's not just normal, mild surprise at someone being well-read. We all know what that reaction looks like. This is the unique look on the face of someone who had put you into a box because you're black and black signifies X, Y, Z, and it's a brief but unmistakable moment of cognitive dissonance as they're forced to reexamine not just you but these assumptions entirely. I actually think it's a positive thing if you live your life in a way that forces people to check their prejudices and preconceived notions. But I bet it's nonetheless tedious and dispiriting to live through every day of your life.
posted by naju at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh, I'd usually considering Dostoyevsky as way less accessible than Tolstoy.
posted by kmz at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it is because, as Maxwell Smart says in Get Smart, Again! (as he uses it to fend off a knife attack), "nobody gets through War and Peace."
posted by nathancaswell at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2011


One of my favorite self-described tech nerds is Aisha Tyler. While she is not a typical nerd in that she's simply stunning to look at, her nerd creds are pretty obvious. She built and runs her own site, she's a huge gamer, and she produces her own podcast. But I think what Aisha means when she calls herself a nerd, and what Professor Jeffers means are two very different things.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


...Shadowrun?

Underground might fit too.
posted by drezdn at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone thought of a "urban-themed" role-playing game, something instead of "Dungeons and Dragons", more along the lines of "Ghettos and Gangstas"?
posted by Renoroc at 3:40 PM on December 9


Awkward Black Girl Gaming Nerd checking in! Yes, it's been done:

Wyrd Is Bond (Key 20 Publishing)

GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War (Steve Jackson Games)

Funkadelic Frankenstein on the Mean Streets of Monstertown (Hex Games)
posted by magstheaxe at 1:57 PM on December 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


An interesting documentary that aired a few weeks ago -- Black in America: The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley. (YouTube excerpts).
posted by ericb at 1:58 PM on December 9, 2011


Aisha Tyler also showed up on the "Talking Dead" show to discuss zombies, which was pretty cool
posted by Renoroc at 2:34 PM on December 9, 2011


Well, in my experience of the word 'nerd', it has not included English professor poets. I guess her experience has been different.

But I think what Aisha means when she calls herself a nerd, and what Professor Jeffers means are two very different things.

Eh, there's nerds of all stripes. Gaming nerds, computer nerds, literature nerds, sports nerds, language nerds, science nerds, knitting nerds, music nerds, film nerds, train nerds, history nerds, car nerds, Nerds nerds, geography nerds, trivia nerds, comic book nerds, etc etc. And of course most nerds fall into multiple categories.
posted by kmz at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I think what Aisha means when she calls herself a nerd, and what Professor Jeffers means are two very different things.

It is and it isn't. Black people are, by definition, cool and hip and any black person that falls outside of this paradigm is a nerd. So, while nerd in the white community leans more toward hi techiness, in the black community, it's someone who is not hip or in the case of Aisha, it's a black chick with no butt or in the case of Professor Jeffers, someone who reads a lot. Whites and blacks expect whites to be more varied, many of these same people expect black people to be more alike.
posted by shoesietart at 2:52 PM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, in my experience of the word 'nerd', it has not included English professor poets. I guess her experience has been different.

In Revenge of the Nerds, Booger is the token humanities nerd, and he's an English major, I believe.

but yeah, lit majors can be super nerdy. In grad school, it seemed like they were more likely to be nerdy than the scientists. In high school, we history and lit nerds teamed up and called ourselves "paper nerds" as opposed to the computer geeks. It was the late nineties, a heyday of Internet nerdity tests and we were tired of nerd being defined as "computer/science nerd". We paper nerds were into books and libraries and history and old stuff and being way too interested in stationary and office supplies. And also some scifi and fantasy for good measure, because the bulk these days are about history and politics and society.

as for the assumptions about class and race in the USA - I've had nothing like this writer's experience, but I noticed that people assumed that I didn't grow up in public housing, because I'm white. (and my iPod is clearly programmed by Americans - it automatically changes "white" to White, something we never write in Canada.)
posted by jb at 3:37 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


This article gets coolness points for not mentioning the dreaded U-word, bane of all black nerds (and nerds in general).
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:03 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Urbane?
posted by stinkycheese at 4:25 PM on December 9, 2011


>in my experience of the word 'nerd', it has not included English professor poets.

In high school, we history and lit nerds teamed up and called ourselves "paper nerds" as opposed to the computer geeks. It was the late nineties,


Yeah, it's clearly a case of generational whiplash. I imagine older homosexual men are as bewildered with respect to the word 'gay'.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2011


Nerd—When is it okay to use it? Is it the new n-word?
posted by Toekneesan at 6:11 PM on December 9, 2011


A really interesting post - the blog entry had good content and lots of outward links to other good stuff. I absolutely love "black folk don't." Love love love. And it's something I can't quite imagine existing 20 years ago. Looking forward to more.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on December 9, 2011


Revenge of the Nerds was 80s.
posted by jb at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2011


Donald Glover is a self-professed nerd.
posted by morganw at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2011


The NBA's nerd chic.
posted by Diablevert at 5:58 PM on December 17, 2011


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