Am I A Blerd? Are You A Blerd? What Makes One A Blerd? » VSB

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Am I A Blerd? Are You A Blerd? What Makes One A Blerd?

 Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson answers science questions from the crowd at the Williamsburg Waterfront on July 29, 2011, in New York City. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)


Back in the days when I was young – I’m not a kid anymore – I think I lived pretty squarely in nerd territory. And because I’m Black, we’ll refer to it as blerd, though I will mostly use the term nerd. Urkel was my muse. We’re talking early 90s and well into high school. Or maybe still now? I have no idea and I’m having an existential crisis about it.

Also, I had to look up existential just now to make sure I was using it right, which I’m not sure is something a nerd would have to do. Except I was listening to Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast and Neil deGrasse Tyson – possibly the world’s unquestionably coolest nerd – didn’t know what the word “preternatural” meant, and I did, so maybe I’m back on the nerd foot? As you can see, I’m having a crisis. And for those wondering, “preternatural” means to exist outside of the norm of nature, in simple terms.

Why am I asking myself this question? I’m glad you asked. Nerd culture seems to be fairly popular nowadays. While nerds have long lived outside of the mainstream, heckled as the picture of anti-cool at every turn, and teased for being smart and awkward – again Steven Q. Urkel – it seems that the full embrace of one’s nerd-dom isn’t as socially outcastful as it once was. Or maybe that’s just nerds who are adults. In fact, that’s probably accurate. The older you get, the more control you have over the composition of your peer group and as such the stigmas and sensitivities that can occur in grade school don’t have to exist. If you want to find a bunch of people who like to dress up in furry costumes, there’s an actual convention for that. Not just a chatroom, a convention.

Back to why I’m asking: I listen to lots of podcasts these days, some for leisure and some for information and education on things I didn’t know. There are SO many dope informational podcasts out there (Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” comes immediately to mind).  Some I listen to in order to learn about people and platforms I’ve heard of but haven’t really engaged with. One such platform is called Black Girl Nerds. They have a popular podcast (the site and podcast is run by a woman named Jamie Broadnax), and often have great content about topics that are, I suppose, native to the nerd. Except, none of it, to me, seems that nerdy, at least how I currently think of nerd-dom. Sure the level of knowledge about comic book writers and story-lines might seem to reach nerd levels, but I know minutiae about hip-hop artists and producers and have studied these individuals and bought books (leather-bound ones to boot) to absorb as much information as possible about the culture and can discuss at length about said topic. Is that nerdy?

Listening to the podcasts, which I highly recommend as they are very interesting in topic and scope, and talking to friends of mine who call themselves nerds has made me wonder what exactly makes one a blerd or nerd. Even rappers – the ostensible cool kid on campus – seem to be nerdy in ways that used to be pejorative. I’ve long joked that rappers today look like the guys rappers used to beat up. Basically, rappers today look like the nerds of yesteryear. Some of it is performative, some of it is the new accessible world we live in that allows anybody with access to a computer to take their talents to the marketplace.

But what is a nerd? What are the qualifications? I like comic books and still own my comic book collection from my youth. I was a straight A student who took all the AP classes in high school. I was part of Math clubs and wrote an entire piece about my TI-83 calculator. But at various points from middle school to high school, I also played sports and was on the homecoming courts and prticipated in SGA. I was on all the smarty art kid lists and in all the honor societies, and still like to read science-centric magazines and journals.

According to the world’s most accurate source of information not named Ja Rule, Wikipedia:

A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.

Personally I like to think of myself as intellectual though I’m not sure what overly means. If you knew what I did for a living though, you would would say that I work at a nerd factory as my entire employable existence is rooted in the creation of mathematical models and spreadsheet analysis of those mathematical models. Basically I math shit for a living and that seems nerdy, though maybe not as nerdy as friends of mine who neuroscience shit.

I’ve been accused of having OCD a time or thousand. I do have social skills, but more and more people that I think I’d call nerdy, or who refer to themselves as nerds seem to do just fine in the social skills department too. My point here is that I’m not sure those three criteria “count” anymore. I think when we are talking of nerdiness we’re talking specifically to the second sentence in the definition about non-mainstream activities and the realm of the abstract and fantasy. At one point in time, I think gamers would be considered nerdy, but that’s a billion dollar industry of which all the cool kids participate. Are the cool kids the nerds nowadays?

I don’t even know exactly what a non-mainstream activity is, and maybe that right there is enough to disqualify me from the running of the nerds. I do enjoy the world of the fantastical and I remember being an avid Dungeons and Dragons player as a kid. I definitely never got on the Pokemon Go bandwagon but I also don’t know if mentioning that makes me even less of a nerd than before.

So I’m not sure if I’m a nerd, but I’ve spent a lot of my youth being called a nerd, but almost never in a negative context as I think we used to typically think of them. I almost think that being a nerd is the cool thing now. Nerd culture is everywhere. Seeing people dressed up to go see Star Wars isn’t just a nerd thing, it’s a gotdamn rite of passage. But again, maybe I’m just off base on what makes a nerd which is why I’m not a nerd even if maybe I used to be one. I think. I used to read the encyclopedias for fun so I think PJ aged 12 was solid as a rock.

But I ask: What makes a nerd? Or a Blerd (Black Nerd)? Is there a difference? Are you a nerd? Why?

Nerd out. Or nerd; out. I don’t know, man.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • PDL….HE still working on me

    Whoop there it is!!! Tee hee hee

  • Lucille A Bluth

    This article underscores how a lot of these identities based on your hobbies are fluid and have relatively little meaning. Just enjoy what you like.

    I feel like I can’t claim the Blerd label because I’m not into cosplay, comic books, or other things that have been classically deemed “nerdy.” I was heavily into debate and government, studied PoliSci in college, and went into a related field after grad school.

    I was into Ann Rice novels (I’ve read all of the Vampire Chronicles), but prefer history and philosophical books (along with Black fiction). I hate math. I have OCD. I like Future, but DeBussy has my heart.

  • I don’t think I’m intellectual enough to be a nerd but there are things that I love and love to talk about so I don’t know if I’m a nerd or not.

  • ????????

    Nerds are in. I would argue that they always have been.

    That being said; what exactly constitutes as “Nerdy” nowandays?

    I have family members who were definitely in the streets that loved comics, and video games. It didn’t exactly take away or hinder their street cred (back when that stuff still mattered.)

    Am I a Blerd? don’t think so. I know people are usually surprised to discover the nerd stuff I am in to. But thats more because I dont hype my love of nerdy stuff any more or less than I do my love of hip hop and ignorant ish.

    They are all a part of me.

    • Janelle Doe

      “Nerds are in”
      Is this like how rib cages are replacing the thigh gap?
      *insomnia led me to the innanets

    • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

      Nerds are winning. Most of the wealthiest people are nerds.

      • KB

        IMO, that is what helped being a nerd become more acceptable by mainstream society. When you have people like Gates and Zuckerberg basically running the world and making tons of $$$, being a nerd is not the damaging label that it was once seen as.

        • Quirlygirly

          Having money helps to change many things..ugly people become cute, nerds become more popular than the ‘popular’ people

    • Hadassah

      Our little one will be one, in Jesus name I decree and declare, Amen.

      • ????????

        Why would you ever want that (a child by me) for yourself?

        Get you one of these VSBrothas that ooze charisma, charm, and an aversion towards fcukery.

        You deserve it.

        • Hadassah

          Dude. What part of im playing don’t you get? Play along. Abegii!
          I don’t want them.

          • ????????

            Ma’am. They are stable, loving, and funny.

            I’m a reformed f*ckboy with aintsh*t tendencies that still surface on occasion.

            You can do so much better.

            • Hadassah

              I don’t need all these explanations. I’m not asking you out in real life. But in e-life we go together. Just deal. And bye!

    • LogicalLeopard

      I think the nerd label gets applied depending on how deep you go into a certain subject. Many people love comic books and comic book characters. That’s evident by how big the comic book movies are doing at the theater. But most people aren’t going to be able to give you analysis of classic storylines in comics, or be able to identify by sight which particular armor Iron Man is wearing, or get all of the easter eggs in the movies, etc. That’s where nerds come in, because they think obsessively about certain things.
      I’d also say they tend to be fringe things, but I believe that there are definitely sports nerds, hip hop nerds, etc. We just dont call them that.

  • King Beauregard
  • Hadassah

    Diego is a nerd.

    I’m not one. Don’t want to be one. Don’t want one.

    • Diego Duarte

      I have all 802 pokemon in all their evolutionary stages. What right do I have to challenge such claim?

    • Diego Duarte

      Also, there’s this: me challenging my sister to a Yugioh atop an ancient sun dial, next to a pyramid.

      • Hadassah

        What is a yugioh?

        • Diego Duarte

          Anime card game.

          • Hadassah

            Ok. Thanks.

          • Blue ice dragon!

      • Epsilonicus

        So nerdy!!!!

        Wait until you get into larping lol

        • Diego Duarte

          Lol, not sure if I would ever do larping. Granted this pic was taken 10 years ago, back when I had more free time.

      • Janelle Doe


  • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

    Liking superheroes isn’t nerdy anymore but I’m a politics and history nerd. I read political and history books for fun. Also big into space exploration, Elon Musk is one of like 5 white people I follow on Twitter.

    • “Liking superheroes isn’t nerdy anymore ”

      I honestly don’t think it ever was. Mainstream culture would have you believe otherwise though.

      I was a history major so I read a lot of that too.

      • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

        Sick! What subject of history?!

        • My concentration was Africa, Asia, and Latin America but I’m a WWII/ post war head.

          • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

            Cool! Why did communism spread so quickly in Asia and Latin America but fail in Africa?

            • Alessandro De Medici

              Pan-Africanism was more nationalistic in its appeal, than internationalistic, which was the form and version that it took in Asian and Latin American countries.

              • I think China and Russia’s size help them dominate Asia too.

            • In Africa a lot of the colonial powers tended to hang around longer. In spite of that the communists tried it but they also had to deal with a lot or religion and tribalism that may not have ran into elsewhere.

              I also think many of the colonial powers were willing to put up more of a fight against the spread of communism on the continent than the were in Asia or Latin America. Remember Mongolia became red in like ’26 if I recall, China went red in 49 and half of Korea was red, and the Norf Vietnamese gave the French the shaft by 54 so it took hold. So with the USSR and PRC being so large and having a foothold in Asia that helped.

              Latin America was perfect because hardcore fascism seemed to thrive there so it was only a time before communism came along to counter it since the fascist strong men they knew were backed by the great democracies.

              • Brooklyn_Bruin

                Is it truly communism when there is no industrial base?

                • Is it truly communism when the guys up top ball out?

  • Alessandro De Medici

    Being nerdy is cool now.

    It has no value anymore.

    • Diego Duarte

      Law of supply and demand?

      • Alessandro De Medici

        Not necessarily.

        Being a nerd used to be the opposite of being cool. (Think Stefan vs. Steve Urkel)

        The cooler something is, the less nerdy it becomes.

        • Diego Duarte

          Well, it’s also true that there are far more nerds now than before. Since entertainment has become far more diversified than just fantasy books, plenty of people now enjoy nerdy things (GoT). Thus you have plenty more fandoms and nerds.

          The more of something you have, the less its value :)

          • Alessandro De Medici

            There’s also little social costs for being a nerd. For being a nerd, the social costs was a major part of what made it valuable.

            Yes, you get to be yourself, but you no longer have to deal with the scars and ostracism that bonded you and other nerds together in the first place.

            • BlurredWords

              Yeah but aren’t those scars and bouts with ostracism traumatic, harmful (and for some ,potentially deadly), and sort of wasteful? Idk, I’m like PJ. I’m definitely into nerdy ish (Anime, comics, Speculative fiction, alternative music, and tweed) but I also always had a group of friends, played sports all my life, and participated in many social clubs/organizations that required a certain level of social clout and public speaking ability. So, I wasn’t a “nerd” in the sense that I got beat up, laughed at by girls who I asked out, or went home on Friday w/ no plans for the weekend. And, you know what, that was great! I had so much more time to keep trying new things and geek out over them instead of being cyber bullied on the internet, or having an existential crisis at the age of 15 about if I would ever find love and happiness by being who I am. Granted, I still did (and still do) the latter but that’s linked to my anxiety. But, that anxiety doesn’t stop me from going out to house parties and clubs w/ my way cooler friends

              • Alessandro De Medici

                Whether it’s ultimately good or bad, i.e. the trauma, I think is inherently secondary; it’s like saying “I’m a soldier or a veteran, but I never fought in a war.” What made you a nerd, was the fact that you were in fact not balanced. That you’d rather in college spend time hacking NASA or something than going out with your friends and chasing girls and drinking. It required a strong sense of energy and pain to become it – it was driven by compulsion. That’s why it was endearing, if it had been like it is today, the word would have never had any significant meaning.

                Great pieces of art as well as many creative works , often come from people who are suffering from something major! (Check out how messed up and sad Karl Marx’s life was for instance) Do they need to go through that? Probably not, but it’s not ironic that Mary J. Blige’s music was what better when she was going through things. A flipside to that same ostracism, is when you accept it, and feel no need to conform to a society, the mind and the energy, enables greater focus on what you do care about (it’s why some autistic people can do genius things – their entire mind is zeroed in on a task, as the expense of other things.)

                • Brooklyn_Bruin


                • BlurredWords

                  I think it’s dangerous to start attributing the trials and vices of an individual as the reason they are successful. I would argue that for many of them it was the opposite: they succeeded despite their issues. ;Cause I know a lot of people suffering from anxiety, isolation, depression, drug problems and they are nowhere close to doing anything extraordinary even though I personally see how talented and “special” they are. However, I can agree that it does seem to be a pattern: Kanye wrote his best album struggling with the death of his mother and reeling from the public backlash post-Taylor swift fiasco (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). But, was it because that he went into isolation that he had the energy and “focus” to create a masterpiece? Or, was it his determination to return to the top, to gain back his fans and create something beautiful despite the tragedy that ultimately led him to his mangum opus. Idk, but personally I believe someone’s grit is more important than how “cool” they are in determining their success.

                  Also, historically, the idea of a “nerd” is pretty recent. For example, compare Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger to the modern conception of the “nerd.” Both of them were suave, well dressed, sophisticated gentlemen who not only did research, but also were advocates, fathers, and
                  public figures. Could they have done more in their lives if they didn’t spend the couple minutes each day picking out their clothes, or the days they spent with their family, or the days they spent visiting with politicians (and in Einstein’s case being a fervent activist against racism)? Maybe, but I think we can both view them as extremely successful “nerds”

                  • Alessandro De Medici

                    It’s true that nerd is quite recent, which is why the only way to understand it, is by understanding it’s nemesis: cool. Which is also a relatively new term. Those terms refer to “social costs” of a certain lifestyle. They don’t just refer to disconnected interests, but a way of living: a subculture almost. Something that really wasn’t a thing until the 1960’s-1970’s.

    • cakes_and_pies

      The battle was permanently lost when people voluntarily started wearing old school coke bottle glasses with no prescription and mumbling “I’m Different” lyrics.

      • Alessandro De Medici

        Plus, you don’t really pay any social costs for being a nerd now. You don’t get bullied, you don’t get ostracised, you don’t suffer and go through pain; which all bonds you closer to people who shared the same interests as you did. You’re more likely to be ostracised or looked like a loser if you don’t watch Game Of Thrones, than if you do…thus, defeating the whole purpose of being a nerd in the first place.

        • cakes_and_pies

          If everyone is a nerd, no one is a nerd.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Thank you.

          These Toonami asset ninjas claiming hood status when they ain’t pay no dues.

          We’re at the point in the game where pretty girls are calling themselves makeup nerds.

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            As soon as a few of us started pulling hot girlfirends and growing into our ears and gawkiness, the whole social construct of being a nerd turned on it’s head man..

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              When chicks you date divulge their nerd secrets to you…

              On the low, everything that is cool or interesting probably started with nerds or other outcasts, but then gets ripped by folks thoroughly entrenched in the social order. And then they debase it and move on to the next thing.

              • CheGueverraWitBlingOn


        • Rewind4ThatBehind

          That’s the conundrum of the times changing now.

          What used to be rejected by society is now embraced because nerds took over the entertainment industry and made their passions more popular than anything else.

          Everything we like is now dominated by what was once nerdy: space, superheroes, knights & dragons, magic, science, etc.

          And yet all these people get to participate with none of the struggle that was required to embrace these alternatives.

          • Alessandro De Medici


            And it was the struggle that was at the core of the identity. I think that’s what people miss.

            It wasn’t just liking magic, space, superheroes, knights, dragons etc that made you a nerd.

            Look at Star Wars for example, it has always been a blockbuster movie, meaning millions of people have always liked it. What made you a Star Wars nerd was you lived that as part of your life!

            You actually had dreams of Star Wars!

            You actually believed that there was or one day could be such a thing as “A Force.” Nerdom was a compulsion and an addiction.

            Today, nerd is just a marketing scheme. It’s not representative of a real lifestyle or subculture.

            • Rewind4ThatBehind

              But that’s always been the problem. Us as nerds never considered our passionate love for what we liked was always manipulated by consumerism and it’s not surprising that over time, as nerds took over everything, the consumerism part would turn out anyone who wasn’t part of the gang until they finally joined in.

    • AnotherBlackGirl

      Im a blerd and Ive always been a blerd.

    • siante

      hipsters have worn the “nerd” aesthetic into the ground.

    • Michelle

      Kinda of reminds me about Lady Gaga and her “Little Monsters” fanbase.

    • Yahmo Bethere

      Too many folks think, “I play video games/like comics/wore t-shirt I’m a nerd.”

  • Diego Duarte

    I thought there was a difference between nerds, who are more intelectually inclined; and geeks, who are more passionate about their hobbies.

    Regardless, “nerd” culture is definitely more acceptable now than 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. Problem is that nerd culture (specifically gamers) also brought about the Alt Right. Whether they be libertarians, MRA, MGTOW, Incels, etc, they were the ones to rekindle fascism.

    Personally I still identity with the term. Though now I have to make a disclaimer to let people know I’m not a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, islamophobic, etc.

    • Hadassah

      You are a nerd. The olden days kind.

    • “they were the ones to rekindle fascism”

      On some levels they were the ones who brought it about the first time or at least the helped propelled it forward. The Goebbels, Hitlers, and Himmler’s of the world fit that description too.

    • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

      I stopped calling myself a “gamer” because everyone who refers to themselves as such ends up hating black people, women, Muslims and the LGBT.

      • I haven’t played a video game in about four or five years. What’s with the douchey “gamer” culture any how?

        • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

          I only play 2K and usually as a way to unwind. I barely touch my PS4.

          All the nerds who got bullied became Nazis.

      • Diego Duarte

        “Gamergate” ruined the term for me as well. That people would send rape threats over something as insignificant as “ethics in gaming journalism” is just… yeah. Then there’s also all the toxicity in the gaming community. More racial slurs and misogynist comments than I care to count. You’d think you were attending a Klan meeting.

        • Rewind4ThatBehind

          I don’t even play online with people anymore because I’ll be damned if I get called n i g g e r one more time by some bitchasspunk from the South who really thinks I won’t go Jay & Silent Bob on that a$$

          • Yahmo Bethere

            I play silent.

            • Rewind4ThatBehind

              I commend you.

              I got to the point where I just stopped wanting to play competitive games so all I own are single player games.

            • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

              I tried to play with sound once when I first got Overwatch recent…that voiceline hasn’t been on since.

          • MsKeisha23

            “How many people wanna kick some A$$?!?! I Do! I Do!!”

            • Rewind4ThatBehind

              Shoot you can save me

              JayIzUrGod – Xbox
              RottenLegacy – PS4

        • This why I only play 1P games. Any game that *requires* coop to play the entire game gets left in the dustbin.

      • Rewind4ThatBehind

        Yea I don’t even understand the point of saying gamer when everyone plays games…but I’m also 33 and can feasibly take care of myself unlike the 30% of crybabies under the term gamer.

      • Nametaken

        I prefer the term “sim racer” myself, since I literally only play racing games. I’m sure they’ll somehow ruin that too eventually…

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        Don’t let them stop you from being great

        • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

          Yes fam! ?. Though I’m more #SpinningPileDriver #FuckZoning

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            Technically, I’m #teamsonicboom, but you know….they franchise is allll about Ryu vs Ken.

    • NotToday

      I just said the same thing about nerd vs geeks!

    • Cheech

      What are mra and mgtow?

      • NotToday

        mens rights activists & men going their own way

        basically 2 names of groups that hate women b/c they didn’t get laid in high school

        • Cheech

          Ah. So subsets of Incel.

          • NotToday


        • Diego Duarte

          They continue to not get laid today as well. Which is a good thing, frankly.

      • BlackMamba, Romperstiltskin

        Obsidian but largely white dudes.

        • Rewind4ThatBehind


      • Mens rights activists, aka Meninists aka idiots

        • Cheech

          Got it.

        • NonyaB?

          “aka idiots”

          Love it.

      • Diego Duarte

        Men Rights Activist and Men Going Their Own Way. Essentially, salty nerdy, libertarian dudes who are butthurt because women won’t date them.

    • I think it is more acceptable Today than it was last WEEK. I think both Trump and Obama have really helped with that. I hate the word “nerd”, “nerd culture” with a passion. And #geeks I hate that almost as much. My bff likes the N word. We argue about that. I think my hate started with my sister. When I told her what I was interested in studying in college….she told me I wasn’t a big enough nerd for it. I wasn’t on that level.

      No matter what I have learned, or how far I get. I am still wondering if the next level is too high for me. If I am enough of a nerd for that. Everyday as I battle with the challenges my work brings me. I am still wondering. If I am good enough, ‘nerd enough’, to make it through the next challenge. I want to stop doing that. And I don’t want to be called any names.

      • Rewind4ThatBehind

        You’re the classiest yet most authentic nerd I know.

        Keep reaching my dear. You’re not done yet.

        • If these weren’t the sweetest words….

          I’d strangle you for calling me a NERD. I am not that N word!!!

          Love U!

          • Rewind4ThatBehind


            Andie, you are a brilliant Ph.d holding mathematician with a witty outlook on life, the desire to encourage others to dream big, and an imagination worthy of your own HBO series.

            So even if you hate being called a NERD, you’re MY NERD.

            Deal with it.

            Love you back girl.

  • Gibbous

    PJ, I might be a Blerd because I’m crushing on you and your writing on this article. Also, because I follow @merriam-webster on twitter (I don’t know why, but I think of them as female) and she’s on fire!

    I might not be a nerd, though, because her definition seems to emphasize the first part of the definition, and less so the 2nd. While not “unstylish, unattractive or socially inept” I do enjoy intellectual and academic pursuits, but not slavishly. I do have a life. It seems I’m actually happy to be a Blerd, but not so much a nerd. Huh!

    Definition of nerd
    : an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits computer nerds

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