To Blerd or Not to Blerd
Blerd, or a Black nerd, is a term that has seen a tidal wave of support in the last few years. If you search #blerd on Twitter and Instagram you’ll find everything under the nerdtastic sun. It’s fun, it’s unifying and it’s shining a spotlight on another aspect of the Black experience. Yet, I still do not label myself a blerd.
I understand why so many of us celebrate the blerd title. It allows us to be easily identifiable. You know when someone says they’re a blerd they are a black nerd. Saying you’re a blerd let’s others know what you stand for and the community you represent. The only downside, as with any subculture, is certain voices start defining what your community is, whether that’s true or not.
As I surf through various hashtags and timelines on Twitter, I see a few patterns that make me uncomfortable claiming the blerd title. A lot of blerds celebrate an aversion to stereotypical behavior and interests. “I was playing Dungeons and Dragons instead of basketball” or, “I can’t speak AAVE.” I get it, we are not a monolith. However, some blerds make it appear as if liking anything “stereotypical” is not blerd enough. It’s this special snowflake syndrome that has a habit of permeating subcultures and ruining their appeal. Creating a space in reaction to exclusion is fine. What I find troubling is then creating respectability politics and judging other people who aren’t blerds, or easily defined as such. Replacing the “black card” with the “blerd card” is not progress.
Even if that part of the community was silenced, I’d still hesitate to label myself a blerd. I don’t feel a need to qualify my ‘type’ of black or my kind of nerd. Blackness, to me, is an all encompassing identity for those of African descent. Blackness is whatever Black people make of it. Blackness is video games, cosplay, and twerking. Blackness is metaphysics and the corner store and the mansion on the hill. My blackness places no limits on who I am or what I’m interested in. Some may argue that for the longest time black nerds were not recognized, they were invisible and that’s why the label is necessary. To quote Toni Morrison, “Invisible to whom? Not to me.”
Labels help us define who we are and find others like us. Blerd is not a terrible term. But like all things, it is not without critique. If the blerd label is empowering to you, use it! For me, blerd is not. At least we can all agree on one thing, Star Trek is better than Star Wars.