I recently ran into a fellow Blerd at a local Dunkin Donuts and O.M.G he made me feel like a rock star! So, this is what representation does for people?
Last week, I took a trip to my job’s local Dunkin Donuts; it was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and, having worked since 9:00am, I was in dire need of a pick-me-up. I was donning my infamous denim jacket: the jacket I personalized a few summers ago to feature my favorite pop culture buttons and pins (mainly from comics, anime, movies and video games). A little something I made purely for fun at the time as a form of expression for my inner nerd-dom. As I made my way to the cashier, there was a customer by the door waiting for his order: an African American male who looked to be in his late teens/early 20s. He took notice of the personalizations and proceeded to fanboy.so.hard. He fanatically asked if I would be so kind as to let him ogle at the back of it. As he made his way down, he noted all of his favorite characters:”Edward Scissor Hands!”, “OH MY GOD Jack Skellington!!” “SAILOR MOON!”. He pulled back his shirt sleeve to reveal an anime-themed tattoo on his forearm. “I’m a nerd, too!” He shared. By then, it was time to grab his order. He grabbed his coffee and said to the barista: “NIGGA! You know we go to Comic-Con! We love that shit!” as if their friendship existed outside of their coffee interactions. As the barista lectured him about his use of the word “Nigga“, he made his way out of the door. Before departing he turned to me and, with a smile, said “Yo, Thank you! That made my day!” then proceeded to leave riding the high that my jacket gave him: This. This is why.
Representation is SO important.
There’s just something about seeing yourself in someone else that makes you feel: heard. seen. represented.
It’s the feeling I get when I see other BLERDS like @Kieraplease on IG or so-called “awkward black girls” like Issa Rae. A sense of community and kinship. Seeing people like you can do wonders for your self-esteem.
Knowing that you’re not alone. That you’re apart of something bigger.
Not seeing yourself on mainstream platforms has a way of making you feel like you don’t exist. Like you’re the only one in the World. And besides, the media only portrays what’s popular and in the 90s – the early 2000s (which is when I grew up) being a black nerd was NOT it. That’s ESPECIALLY true for girls. Thank the Universe for Aisha Tyler. I’d be surprised *if you could name me 3 blerds from the 90s. I’ll wait…
During this time, according to mainstream media, black girls were: strong, fashionable, funky, conscious, sexy, classy, maternal, goofy, temperamental. All lovely adjectives. None of which translates to nerdy. And yet here I was: a girl. black. and nerdy.
I was left asking: where are the other black girls who liked anime? Where are the black girls who crushed on Future Trunks? (I called dibs. he’s mine. you can’t have him) Who had anime theme songs on their iPods ?(haha I’m aging myself). Who could kick their friend’s asses in Tekken? Who would stay up late on a school night to watch the Toonami lineup? Who could hold their own in a PS vs Xbox debate? (ijs, if you’re team Xbox you’re on the losing side). Did it stop and end in my middle school classroom!?
For years, I didn’t think I had a place in the world. I walked around just feeling like a black sheep: I was considered too white to be black. Black-black so I couldn’t be white. The truth is I believed I didn’t fit in anywhere because I didn’t grow up seeing people like me. Due to lack of representation, people would see me and not know how to categorize me. Often, they would just default me to “tomboy”. At one point, I remember being asked if I was gay before I knew what being gay was. I guess displaying Dragonball Z printouts on your bedroom walls and binders while holing yourself in your room for countless hours playing Donkey Kong Country on your hand-me-down SNES wasn’t considered “feminine”? Now, thanks to Social Media platforms like: IG, Pinterest, and Tumblr, I feel like there’s (finally) a space for people like me! It’s such a breath of fresh air to see people like me cosplaying, gaming , and having debates over anime titles. I’m not an alien after all!
From IG pages like @blerdover and *@blerdofficial to actresses like Jessica Williams and musicians like Travis Scott: the world is finally getting a glimpse of the nerdy black scene. The “alternative” black kid: the awkward, geeky, nerdy, introverted, Naruto running, ramen eating, Harry Potter obsessing, rage quitting crowd that has been here all along. Because it does exist. We have been existing. We were just denied access by the gatekeepers who are determined to portray people of color in a certain light.
But fear not Blerds, it’s ok. Why? Because I am here. (If you read that in All Might’s voice, then you are in the right place.)
*Got your list of 3? Drop ’em in the comments below
*You can check out more blerd content here: