Do you remember being made fun of because you watched anime? Or read manga? Or playing a video game that wasn’t 2K, Madden or GTA? I do and it wasn’t fun. I was often labeled “Not really black” or “Not black enough” by both my black and white friends. Let’s get this out of the way, I wasn’t bullied by no means. But I was made to feel like my blackness was in question because I played Final Fantasy instead of 2K or knew all the lyrics to Yu Yu Hakasho instead of a Biggie song. As I got older, I learned to mask my nerdiness before ultimately not caring what people said or thought. I happened to be lucky that the people I was friends accepted this part of me and paid it no mind. I understand not everyone has been that lucky.
In high school I noticed that because someone liked something different than the stereotypical norm, they were considered not really “insert ethnicity here”. I never understood (and never will) why PoC mocked other members of their ethnicity because they were different. I hated hearing black people tell me “You don’t like 2K? You can’t be black” or “What the hell is a Cowboy Bebop? Listen to some hip-hop”.
I could and did both. I was able to intersect between anime and “black” culture. The issue is that I should of never had to do so. Why did people with the same pigment as me label me as less than? Who the hell are you to classify my blackness? We as a people sometimes stifle our own because it’s something that goes against what they are used to so it’s automatically not really black. This isn’t necessarily exclusive to those of us in the African American community. This happens with other PoC communities as well. When a member(s) of whatever group like something that is different or against the grain of what their society deems “normal”, they are immediately singled out and made fun of. Some even resort to bullying those people who are different. And let’s not get into the reasons (some people say) that nerd guys/gals don’t date who they want until its cool…I already wrote something addressing that a year ago. Take a look here.
For good portion of my life, I’ve had to intersect between being myself and what is perceived as being black (Thank you @sineaterdanyi for the phrasing). No one should have to do that…for any ethnic background. It’s not needed. You are an original. Be proud of it. As a society, we often try to fit into whatever box that will give us the least amount of grief. Forcing yourself to fit in will end up making you feel like being yourself isn’t important…that is not the case. It took me until my senior year in high school to realize that I shouldn’t care or be afraid to show people the real me. I was still me, just added some video games and a LOT of anime to it. My friends still liked me and didn’t judge me (though they did play me sometimes but not to bullying levels).
It’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be different. What’s not okay is alienating others because they are different from you. I’ve noticed this in high school and some of the Comic cons I’ve been too. When someone isn’t on the same level of “nerdom” (not even sure I used the right phrasing), some blerds/nerds shun them and treat them like dirt. Is it because its how they were treated in the past? Possibly, but doesn’t mean they should treat someone else like they were treated 10 plus years ago. Assholery begets Assholery. Yes, high school sucks and so do most of the years after but lashing out at innocent people for how you were treated gets nothing done and only perpetuates a bad narrative onto nerds.
*Special Insert: To the people still making fun of people for enjoying nerd things…why? What does me enjoying throwing fake kamehamehas around affect you in your everyday life? Did you not grow up from your high school mentality? People are allowed to like things you don’t know about or like. You watch “Real Housewives” or “Love and Hip-hop” yet you call me the childish one? Stop it. There is no need to belittle someone enjoys watching what you call “cartoons” (it’s anime for the record). Get off your high horse and chill out. </end rant>
I literally can go on and on about this subject because I see this happen often. It’s saddening and not necessary. All in all, be yourself. You are the master of your story, make it a worthwhile one. Has something similar happened to you in high school, college or presently? If so, how did you handle it? How do you handle it now? What advice would you give someone who hides their “nerdself”? Let me know in the comments below.