Revenge of the Black Nerds


Thinking about it a bit further, I recognized that part of why I don’t own my intellect, personality and talents as much as I should is because I don’t want to appear or be, for that matter, arrogant or elitist.
(Will) Evolution of a Man – Smarter Than The Average Bear

A year ago, Gary called me a snob Gary and I had a discussion about me coming off as a snob. It’s a word I rarely get called, so I wanted to sit with the implications for a while and reflect on what he could be picking up on. I’d like to address both his points:

my “fancy Apple products”
I was using Macs long before they were cool. Back in my journalism days, Apple products were the go to hardware for designers. We had to use Quark in high school to format the newspaper. Increasingly frustrated with the PCs in my personal life, I eventually switched over my personal computer when the original iMac debuted. I haven’t looked back since. And the belief that Apple products are more expensive is just a myth. In fact, I usually make a profit off my Apple gear (I just upgraded to an iPhone 5 for a net of $80. Ask about it). Technology that works makes me more productive. That’s what it’s there for, right?

my “high profile occupation”
Unlike Will, modesty and tact have never been my strengths. In fact, if there’s anything I’m elitist about it’s my intellect and education.

I’m fucking brilliant.

God gave us all different gifts and I just happen to get highly advanced reasoning skills.

When I returned from San Francisco in 2009, I thought to myself, “I want a pretty low key job at a powerful organization until I figure out this whole nonprofit thing. But I want to make over 40K because I’d like to keep my standard of living.”

And that’s exactly what I got.

I was the first one of my cohort to get a relevant job too. Not because I’m special, because I was smart enough to apply for jobs long before graduation.

The Brain and I were just talking about my ability to hack the system and I feel bad at times, but honestly, I don’t know how to be any other way. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but needless to say adaptability is one of the best skills you can have in life, especially for a gay man of color.

If you’re a queer black/brown boy reading this, here’s a trick:
there’s not many self help books made for/by us, but there are tons with White women as the target audience. And White women usually get what they want, so this privileged “minority” group is a good one to extract certain lessons from. Black women are harder to mimic because Black men usually come off as more intimidating and that’s another dynamic to navigate.

Case in point: the person I would thank the most for this “high profile occupation?” Cathie Black. I always admired her…especially back when I wanted to be editor in chief of a major magazine. I remembered how informative her Oprah episode was and bought her book Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life). While reading, I replaced every instance of “woman” with “nigger” and I had a job within three months. I heard people think she’s an asshole. I get that. I’m not much of a people person myself.

Three years later, I’m going to head HIV planning in NYC next year: the largest jurisdiction in the country. That’s pretty badass. As my mother would say, if no one’s proud of me, I’m proud of me.

Tim Ferriss
Seth Godin
Marco Arment

Also people you should familiarize yourself with. I’m going to talk more about mentorship/role models soon, but my point is in this information age, the answers you seek are already out there, you just have to know how to ask the right questions.

And don’t get me started on this whole “nerd” renaissance. It’s rather disturbing to me actually. It goes to show how valuable a nice body is with gay men that in the age of shirtless Adonis’ on Instagram, people feel the need to wear glasses to distinguish themselves from the pack.

Child boo. You have on glasses, you’re not a nerd. If you were I wouldn’t have to fix your computer for you. Ugh.

Speaking of which, I try not to judge, but when I see a young man of color talk so much about the gym I can’t help but cringe.

Don’t you get it, beauty is fleeting! Go read a book…and not a book about creatine you asshat! It will help tremendously when you’re in your thirties.

I was watching a segment on Don’t Sleep the other night on the war zone Chicago has become and Blacks still relying on sports and entertainment to get out of the hood. The panel kept harping on how education was the key and I thought, “It’s almost 2013, did we not get that message yet?”

As the United States gets Blacker/Browner, the smart people of color will become even more powerful than we already are. Especially when it comes to media:

Shonda Rhimes
Issa Rae
Melissa Harris-Perry

All role models in my head as I embark on the next phase of my career.

And then there’s the interaction of New York City. As the saying goes, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Growing up in New York certainly hasn’t hurt my hustle.

If there’s anything I try to watch, it’s this pride in my intellect turning into classism. There’s got to me a middle ground where Black nerds can celebrate our accomplishments and not be called names like “snobs.” Will should be able to mention he worked at Google and went to an Ivy league school without being shamed by his peers.

I too find I often have to keep quiet about certain things.

I barely mentioned my promotion last year.
I’m reluctant to admit I got an even bigger promotion this year.
I’m afraid to post that picture with that former Surgeon General who felt compelled to personally congratulate me after I got that award.
I bought a timeshare; it was important to own property before I turned thirty. I wish I could talk about that more without having to explain my finances when people assume I must be a flight attendant for traveling so well.

I’m not asking for you to be a genius or something — just be more than average. Show me something. Introduce me to something new. Do more than the regular basic shit that you know.
Karsh Writes – Embracing Snobriety

And don’t get me started on food. If there’s any part of the country with a ton of food snobs, it’s the Bay Area. I was fine with chicken nuggets and fries before Asian frat upgraded my palette. And Karsh got me watching Top Chef. There’s no going back now.

I suppose I should explore how all this impacts dating in another post.

So yes, if being proud of my accomplishments as a youngish black man is considered snobbery these days, I guess I’m a snob.

At the end of the day I truly believe luck is simply what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And as people of color we need to get better at creating our own opportunities for advancement. It’s not like racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. is going away any time soon. Power is never given, you have to take it.

Stick around, you may learn something.

3 thoughts on “Revenge of the Black Nerds

  1. Great post, Anthony. We should start a Black gay mastermind network, pool our resources, and then go find some eligible guys. Maybe the problem is that we’ve got the same goal but aren’t working together towards achieving it.

    Just a thought.

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