Nerd — The Other ‘N’ Word That Has Scarred Too Many Young Black Kids

I don’t utilize Facebook too often. Between the cumbersome privacy settings, multiple birth and/or divorce announcements and interrogations from family and everyone else I fit into either of those categories, I choose to avoid rather than engage. However, on one of my rare visits during the holidays, there was a post recently that caught my eye – a cousin recounting her 16-year-old son’s reaction to being on the receiving end of that n-word – Nerd.

According to her, the label comes not from his close friends, but rather a large group of acquaintances who made the assessment based on the following:

He follows the rules.
He enjoys and is very successful in school.
He never talks back to adults.
He never uses profanity.
His use of proper English.
His musical preferences compared to those of his peers.

Sigh. This sounds all too familiar. High school, how I don’t miss it so.

I’ve always observed the wonderful job she did at raising this well-rounded young man. He’s an attractive kid, excels academically, plays sports and has his own finely crafted sartorial sense. She says she’s “teaching him that all the degrees and education in the world don’t equal intelligence, and intelligence doesn’t equal wisdom.” Given her career as a mental health professional, she notes that she doesn’t “think he internalizes any of it because of how he’s been raised and his closest friends have his back. He’s more insulated from serious teasing.”

When her observations take on more of a Mom tone, she says, “At times, I can see some of the comments getting to him.”

She got words of wisdom and support from friends and other family to pass down to him, and, ultimately, the discussion ended with the following question: Surely, that labeling and teasing stops – or at least tapers off – after high school, right?

Answer: Hold that thought.

Same holiday break, I posted a photo of the Christmas gifts my husband and I exchanged on Twitter and Facebook. For him: T-shirts from the video games Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption. For me: a Doctor Who calendar, a Grand Theft Auto V-themed T-shirt. For us: an Xbox One and a few games. Great haul, no? We surely thought so.

Minutes later on the non-Twitter site, there was one lone comment under the photo – Nerds.

Read More at Black Girl Nerds