Hello everyone. My name is Shaunese Johnson, and I’m a self-proclaimed blerd (black and introverted) and have been a “Blerd” from my childhood and currently into my adulthood. However, I recently started to embrace my nerdy and introverted side at the age of 23. “Growing up Blerd” is a three-part series discussing the impact of race, stereotypes, fantasy as escapism, and overall empowering other black “Blerds” and people of color to express themselves to the fullest extent and thrive in life.
Growing up Blerd: The “New” Cool Kids
What’s the beautiful thing of childhood? Why do people never want to grow up? The stress-free life. Not having bills, a job, and not having a label to everything. As a kid I remember having a pretty diverse groups of friends who shared my interests like my obsessions for “Harry Potter” “Pokemon” and superheroes such as “Static Shock.” Middle school wasn’t too bad either as I discovered my love of video games such as “Kingdom Hearts” “Spyro” “Tomb Raider” and other classics. Not to mention movies such as the “Marvel” movies and fantasy movies such as “Eragon” were always my favorites.
Of course, in high school everything changed. Awareness heightened and everything that was once “cool” (at least in my world) became “unpopular” among my peers. I remember trying to maintain my interests of video games, comics, movies, and music, however I had no one to share my common interests and no one would’ve understood my “nerdy” references.
I didn’t hear about the term “Blerd” until sophomore year of college. I saw the term floating around social media and usually had artists such as “Childish Gambino” and “Andre 3000” associated with it. While I’m not one to identify and conform to societal labels, it was somewhat a relief to find a community of black people and people of color within the “Blerd” community. Now as I reflect back on my experiences from childhood, I can’t help but to think about a few aspects I was unaware of until adulthood:
1. Imaging the anime/fantasy characters as black individuals.
Before the Harry Potter hashtag (#IfHogwartswasanHBCU) I used to wonder what Hogwarts would be like with black characters. I remember in anime such as “Pokemon” Brock as my favorite character, and my “Disney” coloring books consisted of all the princesses dripping in melanin. As an adult there is more diversity in films, video games music, etc. but more is desperately needed from diversity in cultures, ethnicity, gender (more women in dominant roles) sexual orientation, religion, economic status, and roles with individuals who have mental/physical disabilities.
2. Being a woman among male dominated “Blerds.”
Men dominate a majority of the film industry. From developers to video game players women are still less represented then women (Mulkerin, 2017). Not only is their lack of representation but misrepresentation of characters can create harmful stereotypes. In high school it was “cool” and “normal” for guys to watch superhero movies, play games such as “Resident Evil,” and read comics without being questioned. However, a woman’s femininity becomes questioned as these are stereotyped as “masculine activities.”
3. Fantasy is not in a black person’s reality.
Recalling from history class (besides black history month), most of the history books were predominately white figures. Most of the history of African Americans were usually of slaves and impoverished individuals of oppression. The two figures I remember learning about were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I didn’t learn about Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, etc. until research as an adult. However, after history class was over teachers introduced books such as the “Chronicles of Narnia” “Inkheart” “The Treehouse” Series” and “Eragon” to name a few with fantasy characters with white counterparts. While history needs to be told, I enjoy seeing African Americans and people of color in movies with mythical creatures, driving UFO’s, in alternate realities, with superpowers, etc. Sometimes a healthy fantasy helps cope with the harshness of reality.
4. Redefining what it means to be a “Blerd”
There is no set definition of a “Blerd.” As a “Blerd” we are versatile and multidimensional and enjoy various interests outside of films, video games, comics, enjoying Rock & Punk music, etc. A “Blerd” can enjoy a variety of sports, be musically gifted, enjoy writing, literature, and art (like myself) and thrive in creative environments. A “Blerd” can enjoy solitude as well as company. A “Blerd” is not defined by what the media portrays us to be. However, as an introvert, it can be daunting to find a niche or even a voice in an introverted society, especially when your interests are opposite of the “norm.” Being able to feel comfortable and free in an open-minded element is beneficial especially when it comes time to one’s growth and confidence. I myself have grown to accept my quirky, introverted, to awkwardness regardless of the environment from work, to class, and in my personal relationships.
5. Being in a World Full of Extroverts
After a long day especially at work or class, I literally want to go hide from everything and everyone. In a position where you’re constantly interacting with individuals, being in complete silence with my art and writing is all I need to rejuvenate. I have accepted the fact, it’s okay! Society preaches a constant work/life balance while this is essential it’s nothing to feel ashamed of being introverted and/or doing activities by oneself. People seem to dread even doing small tasks such as eating, shopping, attending events alone, etc. but I keep the perspective of meeting individuals along the way, and to not have expectations along the way. While being with family and friends is great, sometimes going places by oneself can provide opportunities of reflection and peace.
Being a “Blerd” isn’t about being accepted by society or others, it’s about being true to yourself and realizing the people meant to be there will support your happiness and freedom of expression, regardless of your interests.
Mulkerin, T. (2017, April 20). Video Game Developers need to start releasing diversity reports. Here’s why.