They Came Before Troy Barnes

I just learned about “blerds” and I’m over them already. I got an email with a link to an NPR story about this apparently ascendant set of non-athletic, non-jive talking black folks–mostly men, I guess–who are apparently populating television shows and stand-up stages. It took fewer than 4 minutes, the length of Eric Deggans’ piece, for me to find the (alleged) trend worthy of my very first holiday humbug. According to Deggans’ essay, heretofore black nerds were some sort of weird, non-race-based personification of biraciality, in that being a black nerd was to be caught between what white people expected of blacks and black people’s apparent embarrassment that a member of the race wasn’t unequivocally cool. Deggans goes on to credit Kanye West–yeah, Mr. College Dropout–as the beginning of the “blerd” trend, going as far as willfully ignoring the Carlton Banks (nerd and class) swag Kanye borrowed. To further buttress his claim that he is a black nerd, Mr. Deggans botches interpreting West’s lyrics, which I’m going to assume was just a way of Deggans saying he’s so nerdy he can’t decipher the meaning of West’s rhymes without the help of Rap Genius. 

Kanye West, a rap star give to Argyle sweaters and pouring his heart out on wax, became the hottest thing in hip-hop. Now, raps a tough game, but Kanye can build rhymes around living on pancake batter after his jaw got broken in a car crash or drop references to an M. Night Shyamalan comic book movie. How nerdy is that?

Look around now and blerds are everywhere, intellectual, rock and roll loving, politics talking, comic book reading black nerds.