As a kid, I remember being ridiculed and targeted for being different. But, I suppose this is just the experience of being a Nerd from the Inner City. This was MY experience
If you ask me, there is nothing worse than being considered “normal”.
Considering that there are billions of people on Earth, why do we put so much emphasis on trying to be like everyone else?
After my experiences with bullying in my youth, I solemnly swore to steer clear of being “trendy” or fitting in.
Like most nerds of color, I was bullied by my peers.
Being from the inner city, I didn’t find too many other children who were into rock music, anime and pop culture. It wasn’t considered cool.
Embarrassed by my singularity, I hid my true likes and dislikes in an effort to fit in and played up my “blackness” in my ‘hood.
Now what do I mean by my “blackness“?
Well, in the early 2000s in NYC (The Bronx specifically. Yes, it varies according to what borough you’re in), being black meant:
- Being into hip hop culture which included, but was not limited to: the use of slang (Dumb-mad. Mad-dumb. Poppin. Son. Brick. Brolic. Gully. Sheisty ), listening to (strictly) hip-hop and r&b music, and being good at dancing (I remember memorizing all of the choreos from the latest videos. Who else could do the dances from Sean Paul videos on cue? Plus we all had that one Summer where we learned a dance routine and performed it at some end-of-the-summer event)
- Wearing the latest fashion. Emphasis on latest. Back then, this was brands like: Ecko and Pepe Jeans, True Religion, Jordans, Timberlands (Timbs. There, I said it.) & Nikes
- And lastly, being too cool to care about things like intelligence and education apparently? I’m just saying, I would literally be told that proper pronunciation of words was considered “white”. I always felt like this was more of a reflection of self esteem…
Having received this feedback from friends, family and strangers most of my adolescence, I started to reject my “blackness”. If being black meant I had to conduct myself a certain way or subscribe to specific likes and hobbies, then I wasn’t interested. I felt all alone in the World. Like I would never find a place where I could truly be myself. Then I got to High School.
Turns out, I was not alone in this experience.
This was the first time I had to travel outside of my neighborhood for school which allowed me to meet kids from different areas of the Bronx. To my surprise, there were fellow nerds of color there.
It was one of the first times I would realize I wasn’t alone. That there were other people like me. Black people that had hip-hop AND anime theme songs on their iPods (the iPod video if you were lucky).
And could tell you the release date of the new Js AND the next gen consoles (hey! I slept outside for my ps3! I had to! *It was released in America on my birthday that year! )
And could tell you how many episodes it took Goku to turn Super Saiyan in DBZ.
Black people that were into metal. And movies. And culture; cultures from all over the world! (ok: MAINLY JAPAN).
This discovery was HUGE for my self esteem.
It was a validation that was so necessary for a child who spent most of their life feeling displaced in her own home town; alienated in her own skin. For the first time I didn’t have to choose between two great loves: my hobbies and my heritage. I was accepted and allowed to exist as I was. It was my first taste at living a life without fear and it was so freakin’ awesome! In my youth we were called weirdos. Oreos. Geeks. Now, they call us: blerds.
Fellow blerds, lend me your ear: I offer you a sense of belonging! A deliverance of love, acceptance and affirmation. You are loved. You are enough. Please, don’t change a thing about yourself for the comfort of others.
You do not have to choose between being black and being a nerd; being a nerd does not take away from your heritage or your culture.
No one has the authority to discredit you for being different. That’s a sheep’s mentality. And as the great and powerful all knowing Tywin Lannister once said “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of the sheep”.
So to the black kids who would rather watch anime, sketch Superheroes in their room, spend their life savings at a Con, or larp at the renaissance fair.
For those who dream of being cosplayers and professional gamers!
There is a place for you!
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed. Do not allow people to project their misteachings unto you. Keep that head high young kings and queens. Now is our time!
*bonus points if you figure out what date that was! leave it in the comments >>