We are in a cultural renaissance for black geeks and black nerds (called bleeks and blerds, respectively. And yes, there’s a difference between a geek and a nerd). Not just because we have the Black Panthers, the Luke Cages, the Black Lightnings, and the A Wrinkle in Times out here racking up awards and changing lives, but because we’re winning in all areas of life. We out here making movies, getting TV deals, and just straight up running shit. Even in the academic space, so many people are trying to hop on the “Let’s talk about geeky stuff!” train with their research. I mean, just all around we are at a time where being a bleek or blerd is a good thing and I for one couldn’t be happier.
It makes me happy because I know how it feels for it to NOT be a good thing. I grew up before bleek and blerd were even a thing, even though plenty of people Black people were definitely geeks and nerds. I grew up loving Digimon and DBZ, acting out the video games I played, and writing and reading my own fantasy adventures; needless to say I was picked on for that among other things. As a result I only had a few friends and felt really uncomfortable sharing my interests with others. Now I’m grown AF and don’t care, but it shouldn’t have taken me adopting an IDGAF attitude to embrace my interests. Being an educator I've see plenty of people in similar situations: Black folks with interests in geeky topics without the space to talk about them. I've had students who, even in college, felt like they couldn't share their interests for fear of being picked on or ostracized. Even though things have changed a bit since the 90s and my own geeky childhood, there still were kids who needed to see this renaissance that we are seeing now. You can’t underestimate how important that is. People want to be accepted, they want to be supported, and their interests deserve to be acknowledged. Particularly for Black people who are already ostracized by so much of the world, it is vital that they have SOME space where they can be their full, authentic selves.
When I’m talking about spaces, I’m not just talking about the classrooms either. I’m talking about the college dorm rooms, apartments, and parents’ living rooms where we watch hours of anime. I’m talking about the cafeteria tables where impassioned debates about who would win between Black Lightning and Static occur. I’m talking about the car rides home from the movie theater where we talk through the trauma of the Infinity War ending. It’s not even just the physical spaces, either. I’m talking about the Black Science Fiction.coms, the State of Black Science Fictions, and the EJOBNs. I’m talking about the comment sections of RDCWorld1 and Married2TheReal videos. These are the places where we find community, and where we can thrive. These spaces have led to the cons that center us, the MECCAcons, the Blacktasticons, the BlerDCons, the ECBACCs, and the Onyxcons, where not only is being Black and geeky or nerdy okay, but so is being Black, queer, a woman, disabled, and the like AND a nerd (so no need to run up behind the “others”). We geeky and nerdy Black folks have it made right now. Finally, our interests are being recognized and we have the space to discuss them with likeminded people. It’s been a long time coming, but we are finally here.
And now that we’re here we can keep moving forward. The thing that makes being a bleek or blerd so great is that not only can we enjoy geek and nerd culture, but we can make it better. We can use the worlds that we love to talk about important things that affect our lives (like representation) When people are heard and their viewpoints are valued, the world moves forward. Those of us in geek and nerd culture have a particular perspective, and as the world embraces geek and nerd culture more that perspective becomes more and more valued. All of this isn’t coincidence: we have the opportunity to really make a difference by shifting worldviews using our bleek and blerd family, so why not capitalize on it? Bleeks and Blerds are the future, and its high time we celebrated that.
Do you have any geeky or nerdy interests? How do you think bleek and blerd culture can help to form community? Feel free to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!