More often than not, the question has come up, “Why Blerd?” and I figured that perhaps I should try to answer that question as substantially as possible, as those two words are locked and loaded with tons of other embedded questions.
First of all, as many who don’t know might have guessed, a Blerd is simply a “Black Nerd”. Nerds (and geeks) are often regarded as people who find interests in something that may not always be the most publically popular thing to like, usually associated with fantasy or fiction of some sort, and own that interest to it’s fullest extent and beyond. We aren’t talking about the vapid “I love _____”. We are talking about unrivaled passions for universes, characters, stories, and forms of art that often outweigh real celebrities. So still the question remains, why identify yourself as a Blerd as opposed to a nerd? The quick answer? Representation.
The thing is, there is a misconception that black people just don’t like nerdy things, because black people like sports, rap, and fried chicken. There’s nothing wrong with black people liking those things just the same that there isn’t anything wrong with any other race liking those things, but it’s the racial bias behind it that creates the issue. A white friend of mine a few years ago told me one day “You’re the whitest black guy I know.” It was his running theme for me, because I was generally the work place’s go to as a general nerd information reservoir for things like comics, Star Wars, etc., and being a white guy from Indiana he didn’t know any black guys that were into that sort of thing. It was no fault of his own other than honest ignorance, but that joke grew old quick, and one day I called him on it.
I told him in more words or less to stop calling me that, not because I felt ashamed of liking the things that I do, but because in addition to identifying with the nerd culture, I identify strongly with the black culture. In addition to liking Marvel, I like Barbershop talk. In addition to liking computers, I like Hip-hop. In addition to liking Star Wars I like the color of my skin and all of the culture that comes along with it. The fact that the perception of talking a certain way, dressing a certain way, and liking certain things should place you in a different racial category creates a serious issue. I identify strongly with being black.
No, identifying strongly with being black does not mean that I care about black people more than I care about white people in the same way that the “Black Lives Matter” movement doesn’t mean that black lives are more important than white lives. Identifying with being black simply means being proud of my culture, embracing my culture, and loving my culture. While I like all things nerd, I LOVE seeing my culture as a part of those things. It’s the reason I’m so excited for things like Luke Cage, Misty Knight’s appearance in Luke Cage, and upcoming movies like Black Panther. It’s refreshing to say the least.
“But by calling yourself a “Blerd” aren’t you then segregating yourself from the Nerd community? Isn’t that part of the problem?” No. See the term “Blerd” is a necessity because of the bias against us based on race. Most of the time the mainstream (white america) nerd culture does not embrace the culture of PoC, unless beckoned to do so explicitly. We are vastly underrepresented.
The term “Blerd” is simply a declaration that we are here, we exist, we are everywhere, and we would like our culture to be expressed in the things we like. It shouldn’t be assumed that because I’m black I like basketball. It shouldn’t be assumed that I can’t possibly be interested in the geeky things that I claim to like. It also shouldn’t be assumed that because I like those things, that I don’t identify with my black culture. We simply want it to be known that we love our nerd stuff, and we love our culture, both at the same time. We are a subculture.
And then finally, before anyone asks, “why do you get to be blerds, and us white folks don’t get our own quirky name?” It’s because white people aren’t underrepresented within culture, and therefore there isn’t a need for a separate subculture. They already dominate the culture as the default. Besides, the Blerd community doesn’t ostracise whites, in fact, we likely would have them and others become a part of it, to learn and understand that culture so that it may be further integrated into nerdom. In fact all races are involved in dozens of blerd blogs and podcasts.
So here’s the thing, every black person doesn’t need to identify with being a “Blerd” and some might not want to. That’s fine. There are two views to this discussion, which is basically that of segregation and integration. I’ve simply found it necessary to explain why I myself identify with being a Blerd, because I feel that it is important to my self representation. And that’s pretty much it. So why Blerd? Because it helps Identify me.