CNN just had a segment devoted to “Black Nerds” that was just completely annoying. The reason is, Carolyn Costello, the CNN Anchor over the telecast, was trying to push being black and being a nerd as something new, and the guest, some brother with the Tampa Bay Tribune, who’s name I didn’t catch, just went along with it. In his case, and what set me off, was that he said he didn’t have a black role model for being a nerd. Then, he associated nerdom with pop-culture, and not with science.
That was the last straw.
What caused me to go through the roof was that there was no discussion of how American Cultural and demographic change has made more African Americans who are like me, but younger. It’s called integration. As the rate of racial integration has increased, and as more young African Americans have been born, there was less pressure not to be a person someone else would call then “poindexter” and now a “nerd.”
Something else, too: science is cool to be involved in now, but was the basis for nerd culture for years prior to Star Wars. Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and shows like Space: 1999 helped to fuel the growth of what we now call nerd culture, but really, then, didn’t have a name not just because we didn’t have a hypermedia culture that seeks to define every aspect of pop-culture, but because it wasn’t mainstream culture at the time.
Not so today.
Now, given all of that, how did I manage to come up and be called a nerd? Simple: my Mom and Dad did not discourage my interest in technical issues. But when I was young, I found math intimidating, but I was interested in urban development at a very young age, like eight. So, by the time I hit my teen years, and started building cities of the future, civil engineering and eventually city planning was my interest. I became a person interested in the future, or what some call a futurist.
But I never cared what anyone black or white thought of me in that context. Moreover, I have friends to this day who I met via Star Trek. Case in point…
What I found was that it was actually easier to meet girls if you were a nerd because there were many who loved Star Trek and science.
I think Star Wars created nerdom – because nerds today are more into fantasy and gaming than science and science fiction. It’s easier to be a nerd now because there’s no pressure to be good at science. Star Wars and Digital Media have caused a decoupling of science and nerd culture – something that’s contributed to NASA’s funding decline. Prior to Star Wars, space exploration and our ability to advance the human race in space was the focus – not today.
That’s the part of social change with respect to pop culture that’s not talked about.
Finally, as a CNN iReport contributor who regular attends Comic Con, I’m surprised CNN did not contact me for a comment on this.