Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Love My Growing Nerd-Family

The other day on Facebook I was half jokingly lamenting that I had no one to join me in ranting/raving/obsessing about my current nerdy interest. A Facebook friend took it upon herself to explain to me that there were few people of colour with interests in that area, and I was briefly smothered because I really don't have a lot of people in my everyday life who are interested in the same topics which interest me. By that I mean people who I have met in person at one time or the other and who I talk to regularly. The one guy who talked to me about the latest Marvel movies left my office. If I mentioned literary vlogs to most close friends, I can imagine the confused looks. For awhile I was reading a book and discussing it with a friend- who is hundreds of miles away in England. There's no easy way for me to find a live physical reading group anywhere near me.

So my lively ranting was smothered a bit from this well meaning commenter who was trying to teach me a valuable lesson, but as usually happens, upon reflecting upon her chastening words, I realized later on that I had the perfect come back for her because she is completely wrong about the idea that people of colour have no interest in nerdy things. 

Don't love the word, but I love the concept. 
Of course defining nerdiness is a difficult and elusive task. (Don't even get me started on the real or imaginary differentiation between the "nerd" and the "geek"). I've done some light research and combined with my own observations, I'd say nerdiness tends to be the type of concept that you know when you see it. However for the purpose of this blog, I'd say a nerd tends to be a person who has an in-depth knowledge on certain topics. Sometimes these topics are intellectual, but they are often not, but a need to learn and to be an expert in the topic is always evident. There are other traits which sometimes go with the nerd though they are not universal of course. One twitter follower who responded to my questions i.e.  what makes someone a "nerd"? What type of person makes that word come to mind? replied  "There's a curiosity/willingness to learn about new things" (Thanks ) Social awkwardness seems to be the trait most stereotypical nerds on televison share. I'll go with my highlighted definition for now. 

I knew that the perception that they were no non-white nerds out there was wrong. It could not be when my own mother read comics when she was younger (though she ended up lending them away). I could not be mistaken because I remembered the fact that my classes in my elite secondary school had quite a few women of colour in the top percentile in the country. We had people excelling in every school subject even the so called STEM subjects which some people do not believe is easy for girls. A couple of also spent a considerable amount of time reading Star Trek novels and debating over who was better Kirk or Spock, and few of us never missed Star Trek: The Next Generation.

At present though I know considerably fewer people who would identify themselves as nerds. For some reason as you become an adult, some people believe it's time to put aside such "childish" pursuits (sometimes replacing them with other interests which are far less clever and more infantile, but I will leave that for another post.) Perhaps this is why I have met less adults who indulge in these sorts of interests and of course much fewer women as well.

Once again though the internet's ability to bring together cliques across miles and boundaries unearths transformative revelations.  Where else would I find female nerds of varying ages and descriptions watching and critiquing "The Big Bang Theory" or putting out amazing efforts of creativity and craft skills to produce eye popping cosplay or just being crafty with crochet, metal work or a myriad of other skills?  Where else would I go to find massive viewing parties of new Sherlock episodes or fan fiction which covers every scenario and pairing almost before I knew I wanted to read about them?

Black nerds with similar interests were not immediately visible. Not because they didn't exist but because of course with the internet you do not necessarily know what faces are behind the comments and artwork and fanvids. I know I fall into the trap in defaulting to white faces when it comes to certain areas especially the internet. Something I try to work on, but a recent discovery has helped me vastly in diversifying the internet community out there in my mind's eye. I cannot remember where I first saw the mention of Black Girl Nerds on Twitter, but how can you help noticing something with a title that succinctly describes you?  I found myself on a website which promptly changed the composition of my internet family. I was looking at a page that had been created by people who thought the way I did, and probably felt at times that they were the only ones. Wading into this whole new hidden ocean has been a joy because the discoveries and sensations that have come with it have been joyful ones. Of course once you find one internet community, it opens you up to so much. I now have new podcasts to listen to, new twitter friends who are feeding my obsession for retweets, and I recently got pulled into a discussion on "blerds". Despite the fact that the sound of the word does not sit well with my inner word cadence, the fact that there are enough blerds out there to give them a community name is delightful and very comforting.

We've all experienced the sensation of feeling alone both literally and figuratively and then suddenly discovering that you are among friends. For other nerds of colour out there, I invite you to stop thinking of yourself as a lonely loner, and check out this side of the world. You may find that the nerd population of the world has grown even bigger and more diverse than you imagined.

I'm still exploring this more diverse world of nerdiness. If you want to find out more, I suggest you start with Black Girl Nerds as I did. Please let me know in the comments
if you have other suggestions of sites I should visit which promote a more diverse nerd culture.