“Stop trying to be white.”: the ugly truth about Black Nerdom. 

being a black nerd is difficult. 

now let me tell you, that I have been a nerd my entire life. In third grade I was a part of a select few that respresemted my school in a series of academic and creative games call Odyessy of the Mind. In sixth grade I won a trip to the NASA space center in Huntsville, Alabama. As an adult, I am an avid player of dungeons and dragons, Magic the gathering, and countless board games that you can’t find at traditional stores. Hell, I work freelance in a game store. 

my nerdiness immediately placed me in a different social stratosphere. In sixth grade I attended a math and science magnet school in Watts, CA. I remember my first day, we had to talk about our summer vacations, and midway through my tale of visiting cousins in British Columbia, Canada, a girl said “if you weren’t so dark I would swear you were white.”

It wasn’t just my proper English that pegged me as the Oreo. It was my rolling backpack, my awkward shyness, and my performance in school. It was the beginning of the ugly truth. 

Within the black community, especially in lower income areas, being a nerd or being smart is a detriment. But why? 

You can blame it on parenting; that black parents don’t encourage their children enough to succeed academically. However I might argue that it can be extremely difficult for parents who work over 40 hours a week in order to keep their children housed, clothed, and fed to remember to wake their children in order to get an extra lesson in. I could also argue that slave conditioning hasn’t been eradicated yet, as black mothers often were forced to suppress their child’s achievements in order to keep their families together.    

“A smart nigger is a dead nigger.”

You can blame it on the media. In recent years there has been a heavy decline of movies and tv shows that depict smart, academically successful black people, especially in leading roles. You could argue however that it’s not the media’s job to show diverse representations of the population. Oh and Urkle is like the most famous black nerd of all time. 

You can blame it on schools. The lack of black history taught in schools can force children to think all good ideas and innovations come from Europe and people that look like them have nothing to do with it. Then again, we learn about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. every February until we reach high school. Learning about other cultures isn’t important then. 

The truth is, the blame falls on everyone’s shoulders. By equating nerdiness with whiteness is to limit and put blackness in a box. All too often we [black people] are so quick to limit ourselves. Black people don’t do this, black people don’t do that. Well black people have done this and we will do that. 

There is no such thing as being an “Oreo.” Only finding yourself a different flavor in a big box of candy. 

Nerd on.

-L

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