Growing up as a black nerd

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a bit of a nerd…well geek in some cases. Yes there is a difference between a nerd and a geek .

A Geek usually is an enthusiast of a certain topic or field. Geeks tend to be more collection aligned, and more “matter of fact” like by learning facts and buying merchandise related to their interests. They are also very obsessed with the newest, coolest (and sometime lamest), things that are relevant to their interest.

A Nerd is a very intellectual person, usually very educated when it comes to a particular topic or field that they are interested in. Nerds are “goal” oriented, and focus their efforts obtaining knowledge and new skills over trivia and merchandise.

Both are dedicated to their subjects of interest, and tend to be awkward socially. (hence me with having social and general anxiety), The biggest difference is that geeks are fans of their interests and subjects, and nerds are participants of theirs. A good example: A computer geek might read lots of blogs and join forums to find out when the latest PC game is coming out and the specifications, while a computer nerd might read coding books and research the game’s algorithms. While they are not synonyms, many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa). This is pretty much what I am. I am a nerd but also a geek.

So I love history and anything related to space. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably notice I have a lot of NASA and astronaut stuff. I also love Astrology. I used to be a big gamer but now I only game here or there. I love cosplay and we usually attend Dragon Con every year. It is nice to share these common interest with people because it makes for some interesting conversations and debates. Being a nerd is already challenging growing up, but being BLACK and nerdy growing up was pretty unique, lonely at times, and just an overall big life lesson in tolerance, diversity, and self esteem. There are a lot of black stereotypes and general depictions of black culture that are cliche; but you do not really see much geared towards the black nerds and geeks of the world. There was a big struggle for me with accepting my identity because of how my peers received my uniqueness. I can not even count how many times someone told me I “acted white” because of certain things that I was into, or that I “talked white” because I spoke pretty properly. Being ridiculed for liking certain things and hearing “black people don’t do that or like that, that’s white people shit” always used to confuse me. What is truly talking or acting white or black?

Growing up I found myself wondering if I was geeky or nerdy enough to even label myself as such? It was bad enough I was having an identity issue of not being black enough for some of my peers. I consider being a nerd/geek it’s own culture. Growing up as a black nerd, I am well aware of how race does impact the nerd/geek culture. I can recall countless times of seeing trolls and people in general pissed off that a certain character is being played by someone of a different race. I do understand, that like historical figures should be played by whatever race they were/are, but with fictional characters….who the fuck cares? I found that people didn’t get me.They didn’t understand my interests or why i loved certain things and that caused a big disconnection. They made fun of me for the way dressed, the music I listened to, even the things I ate such as sushi etc.

I would see certain cosplay events and there would hardly be any black people. It is still kind of like that at Dragon Con. However, over the years there have been more black cosplayers attending. Black nerds are referred to as Blerds. When I learned this term, it actually helped me connect with other black nerds and geeks online. I had other people I could interact with who I shared common interests with. My circle of friends is you guessed it a nice lil group of nerds and geeks. Majority black. This circle was formed over years of failed friendships, and weeding out the ones who were just here for the wrong reasons. I never have to explain things to them, or feel judged, or water down the shit I am into. You should always have people around you who you can truly be yourself around. We attend conventions together, cosplay together, game together, and even our little geeks in the making are good friends.

One year that I went to Dragon Con, I was informed by several people that a site had featured me cosplaying as Chun-Li on their page. They referred to me as Cosplay Bae. I was flattered but also not too happy about it. The internet is a cruel place. There were mean comments. I got called a “bed wench” , “white man’s whore“, and a bunch of other bullshit. The crazy thing is, I didn’t know what the fuck a bed wench was. I had to google that shit and when I found the definition, I must admit I got pissed. What pissed me off even more, these fucked up comments were all from other black people. Some commented on other female black cosplayers pics and said they were only doing it for attention or trying to appeal to white men. One thing I learned a long time ago, was that I would constantly be a target for what I liked and loved, and that I would have to defend myself against bullies who felt I wasn’t “black enough” or that I was “selling out” or whatever the fuck it is called. I get it, comics and stuff mainly features characters who are not of color and that is why it has long been associated as a white thing. I found something very common when I talked to other black nerds and geeks…bullying.

I am also noticing that the nerd and geek culture seems to be getting more popular these days. Nerds and geeks have forever been the characters that get treated like shit and weren’t considered cool. Now it seems if you are a nerd or geek you aren’t really an outcast. I have never been on to conform and been mainstream; but now it seems that being the way I have been for 32 years is becoming mainstream. I think more so things have changed because I am not a kid anymore and my fellow nerds and geeks are also grown ass people. We do heckle each other here and there but just know if you come for one of us, there is a whole community that will jump in and defend their fellow nerds and geeks.

I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned from being a nerd/geek is the art of not giving a fuck. Not being sensitive to people’s comments and teasing because guess what? I have heard it all before. No one has come up with any new insults. I love that there are numerous conventions now and not just chat rooms. I love that social media has groups and hashtags to let you connect with other people around the world where there are no fucks given and it is a safe space. I love showing and teaching my children that it is OK to be yourself and fuck what people think.

My oldest was teased a little in school about being a nerd but he hung out with other “wimpy kids“. However, the thing is about the so called wimpy kids…they will beat your ass if need be and pushed to that point. I learned to defend myself early. This started with teasing at home just like any other household where there are siblings. Fast forward to being in school…I was ready. My nerdy ass would hurt your feelings in a calculated way. Simply put, leave the black nerds alone and let them enjoy what they like. Old and young. The older you become the more you learn to control your anger and shittiness; but at the same time some people never do.

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