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I’m going to get emotional for this one, so let’s go.
A few weeks ago I had posted on my IG about “compliments” I’ve received as a nerdy woman of color. Phrases like, “You’re so well spoken for a black girl” and “I didn’t know black girls are into anime” were uttered with the intent to praise me for my uniqueness. It’s as if I’ve somehow broken away from the sea of ratchet, twerking, leopard print wearing “hood girls” and turned myself into a “well spoken” respectable nerdy woman of color. As if I’ve somehow managed to repress my “blackness” and replace it with “white” like habits such as but not limited to:
- Watching Anime
- Going to anime conventions
- Speaking "well"
- Being educated
- Reading and collecting manga
- Knowing how to pronounce complex words like Naruto and Pokemon
Among other “white” things.
It’s as if I've managed to leave my “blackness” behind me and transformed myself into a “White Walker”—black by skin but white by habit.
What utter bullshit is this?
I am not the first nor only WOC (woman of color)/POC (person of color) who’s received these sideways comments. So many of us have heard and been victim of comments that end with “for a black girl” and wonder how our blackness limited us to some form of ratchetness that we've had to overcome. Below are just some of the shared experiences from other cosplayers and their response to getting "complimented."
“I deal with that all the time. I’m supposed to be a stereotype that they assume in their heads and because I don’t act like their demographic of how a black person should act, I’m presumed as being white and that hurts me a lot.”
“People are always surprised whenever I speak to them or present myself and tell me 'I don’t act black.' No, I don’t act like their stereotypical perception of black. It pisses me off when people say shit like that to me. More people to read this and understand that saying rude, stereotypical, narrow-minded shit like this is downright disrespectful.”
“I’ve been getting 'compliments' like this since high school. Once I was told that I act very white... like what? Even back in high school I was told, since I’m part black, that I can’t be a nerd.”
“For me, I feel even worse when other black people tell me that I’m trying to be white because I enjoy anime, comics, cosplay, etc. I’m just being myself here? I can like what I like. Why do that to someone who shares the same issues with you?”
“Compliments” that end with “for a black girl” aren’t meet with gratitude. They hurt and imply that our blackness can only be downtrodden, dirty, and NEGATIVE. Being black isn’t a bad thing nor should it be associated so.
Being a nerd and being black aren’t mutually exclusive. Being black contributes to our nerdiness and our nerdiness contributes to our blackness.
Some of the most popular memes and videos like King Vader's "Hood Naruto" and "Cowboy Beebop" are results of our nerdiness coming from a "black" point of view. Art work such as "Nubia" by Marcus Williams are a result of our blackness contributing to "nerd culture." It is something that is a part of us and always will be.
So the next time you overhear someone end a compliment with “for a black girl,” correct them. If you find yourself prone to these kind of comments, hold your tongue and leave “for a black girl” unsaid. Enough is enough. We’re black and nerdy.