While I am a professed “Jocky Blerd” (“Blerd” = Black Nerd) – an athletic and fairly charismatic person who, nevertheless, is into things considered nerdy, like Dungeons and Dragons, video games, science, science fiction, fantasy literature and / or comic books – I have found nerd culture to be chock full of arrogant little racists and sexists who are quick to launch mean-spirited verbal assaults – because, God knows, they would not dare to launch a physical one – upon those they feel to be less intelligent, less nerdy, or who they think has screwed up their fandom by not engaging in or representing what they are into “just right”.
For example – the movie The Hunger Games had nerds up in arms because some of their favorite characters were Black – which they were in the books, too, but while a reader can change the look of a character in a book in their mind’s eye, that is not so easily achieved with the physical eye and, in The Hunger Games, the Blackness of the characters were in their zit-riddled faces and the scrawny little bastards went berserk, saying some of the craziest crap since 20th Century Fox took legal action against Warner Brothers over the rights to the Watchmen movie.
There is a misconception that all nerds are nice; that all nerds are victims of bullying and classism; that all nerds are super-intelligent, innocent, harmless and adorable and are fodder for bullies.
Bullies in Taped-Up Glasses
A study tracking nearly 2,000 children reveals that bullies and their victims share similar personal histories and traits, such as aggressive behavior in early childhood, overly stern parents, and low socioeconomic status.
Both bullies and nerds have poor problem-solving skills within social situations, have negative attitudes toward others, feel badly about themselves, and most likely grew up in a home with conflict.
The only significant difference between bullies and the nerds they victimize is that bullies dislike school and tend to perform worse academically than their geeky counterparts.
Aggressive behavior in early childhood is the strongest determinant of later victimhood, which means that poor little nerdy high school student getting pushed around in the school cafeteria was probably giving other children hell in Head-start.
To be fair, the aggression found in nerds is not the more cold-blooded aggression you find in bullies. Nerd aggression is more of a hostile hyper-reactivity, which has been linked, through other studies with unpopularity, a likely antecedent to being bullied.
An earlier study, from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found that between 1974 and 2000, in 37 school shootings, 71 percent of the shooters had “felt bullied , threatened, attacked or persecuted.” These oppressed nerds went on vicious killing sprees. Why? Because the aggression was already there; already a part of the nerd’s personality.
Further proof of the similarity between the bully and victims of bullying is that the solution for both is the same.
As a master instructor of indigenous African martial arts and conflict resolution specialist, I have found that learning African martial arts, in particular (and other martial arts, too, I would imagine) is one of the most effective ways of bringing an end to bullying.
The major responsibility of the practitioners of African martial arts is to understand conflict, both internal and external.
Destructive conditioning of the brain and nervous system leads to an inappropriate reaction to conflict called the “fight-or-flight response.”
The student of African martial arts must learn to break this destructive conditioning. When we give in to the fight-or-flight response, the only options we have in the face of conflict are to fight or to run.
The first step in breaking the destructive conditioning we have been subjected to by our families, friends, teachers, clergy, the media and others, is to work on the major weakness in self: the internal enemy called “fear.”
There is an old Yoruba saying: “Those who conquer the enemy within, have nothing to fear from the enemy without.” The student of African martial arts learns that the path to self-mastery and mastery of the martial arts (or anything else, for that matter) is rooted in the process of overcoming fear.
Fear is overcome by courage. Every confrontation with fear must involve action in spite of that fear. The aforementioned proverb teaches us that once the inner fears are conquered, those frightening situations in the outside world become insignificant.
Another Yoruba proverb states that “Fear is the parent of premature death.” This proverb expresses how devastating fear can be to a person’s mental and physical health. Not living one’s life to its full term is considered by most African cultures to be a result of resistance to living in harmony with Nature. Such resistance is believed to be rooted in the fear of self-understanding, self-transformation and self-discovery. It is through training in African martial arts that a person gains the focus, self-confidence and courage to overcome fear.
When faced with conflict, the ori inu (inner self) of the African martial arts student says: “This is a threat, but I can handle it.” The ori inu of an untrained person says: “I have to run away” or, “I have to hurt this person.”
The student of indigenous African martial arts knows he has the ability to fight effectively, so he does not have to resort to flight and he is confident enough to use verbal, non-violent alternatives, because he knows that if those alternatives do not resolve the conflict, he can defend himself physically if necessary.
An untrained, socially inept person, however, will rely not only upon the fight-or-flight response, but also on what I call “small townism”.
Though not exclusive to nerds, “small townism” is a defensive device in which a person limits him or herself to one type of fellowship. It’s similar to small towns, wherein the lack of exposure to people who look differently, think differently and behave differently from you can cause you to have a narrow scope on tolerance.
Nerds who were – or are – outcasts find solace and comfort either to themselves or with other people who have been treated the way they have. They will hang out with people who “get them” or share their strange sense of humor. So out of a group of outcast, introverted people who dress similarly, act similarly and feel similarly, you are bound to get some opinions that do not vibe well with those outside of that community. Small townism, while making nerds feel comfortable, develops a tremendous level of ignorance and lack of empathy.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Curse of the Black Spider-Man
The death, origin and intricate conflicts of superheroes have long portrayed many truths about ourselves that we can only metaphorically grasp; just a cornball in a spandex suit? Not quite.
Comic books affect their readers on a visceral level. So, when Marvel Comics killed of Peter Parker and Miles Morales – a Black Hispanic boy – took up the mantle of Spider-Man, nerds across the globe snapped, spitting such vitriol as:
“So, why now come out with homie the spider man? Wonder if he (President Obama) wasn’t elected Marvel would do this. But at least the comic book character will HELP better than the real life comic elected.”
“Peter Parker could not be whiter. A black boy under the mask just don’t look right. This opens up a whole new story line with a whole new set of problems. Who is going to believe a black man in a mask is out for the good of man kind?”
“Why not make him a dyslexic homosexual too, and cover all the politically correct bases, then we will really be “enlightened”
“Shame on Marvel Comics! This is not diversity; this is a disgrace! Spiderman was Peter Parker, and Peter Parker was white. Create a new character if you want to prove that Marvel Comics is ‘diverse’. Minorities are typically less than 18% of the population, but they seem to get nearly 100% of the history. Why should white children not have a comic book hero that they can identify with?”
“What will he say when he runs into a criminal? ‘Sup Foo? Dis is MY ‘hood!’”
“That’s just dangerous. With spider powers, just think how much stuff he could steal, if he was not so lazy.”
And those were all mild comments in relation to the others!
A similar uproar happened when it was announced that Idris Elba was going to play Heimdall in the movie Thor.
Nerds dislike change; when faced with it, out comes their inner bullies.
Irony & Intellect as excuses for racism.
Often, nerds are racist, but are either clueless that they are behaving in a racist manner, or feigning cluelessness. To the typical nerd, racists are the loud, confederate flag waving nutjobs in the movies, lynching Black people and calling us niggers, shines and coons at every turn.
A nerd’s snarky remarks – filled with much irony and intellect – are meant to show their enlightened viewpoint and, since they are enlightened, they can’t possibly be racist.
At least that’s what they think.
Many white nerds bemoan being white and oppressed and attribute any kind of complaint by a Black person as having no basis or just cause.
While many nerds can be quite obvious in their racist and sexist insults, quite a few have learned to insult you in the nicest ways. Take heed – niceness is a strategy of social interaction; niceness does not equal goodness.
So, the next time a good friend or family member tells you there is this nice man or woman they would like you to meet, RUN!
Just kidding (sort of).
Just as niceness does not equal goodness, nor does shyness equate to docility, or nerdy equate to intelligent, gentle and meek. Nerds ain’t Bambi; they’re Chuck Norris…with a chip on his shoulder.
‘Nuff said…Excelsior…Sweet Christmas…and other nerdy adages to drive my point home.
Hopefully, this won’t be my last post. Hopefully, a horde of enraged nerds, screaming ‘It’s clobberin’ time!’ won’t find me at Dragon*Con this weekend and pummel me with pocket protectors, leaving me in a quivering heap in the lobby of the Westin Hotel (which is where the Alternate History Track – my favorite – is held).
If they do, then damn it, so be it!
Somebody has to stand up against nerd tyranny. Somebody has to stand up for the jocks, the cheerleaders and other popular kids with IQs of less than three digits, but SQs (Social Intelligence Quotients) above 185.
Somebody has to stand up!
Damn the peril!
Damn being labeled a traitor by my Blerd peers!
Should I meet my end at the frail hands of a nerd, know that I left here fighting the good fight!
Milton J. Davis
This was all (mostly) in fun. I – Balogun Ojetade – wrote this article and posted it to my blog. Milton Davis (shown in the above photo with Wolverine) had nothing to do with the writing of it, so don’t go hunting him down!
I, myself, am a Blerd – Black Nerd – and wear the title – and my taped up glasses and pocket protectors – proudly.
However, I am also a writer and writers – like all artists – render the truth as they see it. The aforementioned study that shows nerds and bullies sharing the same traits is true. Bullying is wrong and must be addressed, no matter who the perpetrator is. Racism and sexism are wrong and we must stand against these societal ills…unless, of course, you are the perpetrator.
P.S. No nerds were harmed during the writing of this blog post (although some might be harmed after).