In a recent interview over at the Geekin’ Over 40 podcast along with Geek Soul Brother, there was one question the host did not get a chance to ask me. It was a question Big Baba Rob meant in jest, but it was one that made me think. “Were you Black in a past life?”
People who know I’m on a podcast or may have listened to the show ask me from time to time why I work on a show that is rooted within the Blerd community. Why I support and help out sites and podcasts whose audience is predominately non-White. After some deliberation, I believe I have an answer.
I’m color blind.
Now, when I say that I am “color blind” I do not mean the stereotypical White person’s response to their views of racism and race relations in America. The type of person who honestly (and tragically) believes they believe in equality. A person who lives a rather shallow life and may or may not listen to R&B or Rap, and casually uses appropriated urban slang as if it’s nothing. They may or may not have Black or Hispanic friends like them while dressing like a Kardashian. The same person who goes on with their lives, then sees protests unfold in Ferguson on the news and wonder why Black people are so angry or upset.
No, I am not one of those “White people” who carelessly disregards a person’s heritage and culture for the sake of a false sense of equality. It is quite the opposite, actually.
I was raised by a father who stressed the importance of Martin Luther King; to not judge a person based on the color of their skin (and to expand upon it their gender or sexual orientation), but on the content of their character. My mother instilled in me the importance and pride of recognizing my Sičháŋǧu Oyáte Sioux heritage, no matter how far distant it may be. Despite living in a predominately White suburb, I went to public magnet elementary and junior high schools in a city which was given the wonderful designation of “The Murder Capitol (per Capita) in the United States” fairly recently. I was that kid who people thought was a little “off.” I was bored; in most cases I was found drawing in my notebooks, writing stories or reading a comic or a copy of Wizard. In junior high, at lunch I was found hanging out with the Black kids talking about any number of topics or cracking jokes. In high school on free period I was found hanging out with these same people playing NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct. And of course I was also found hanging out with my best friend – who is still that even to this day – who is both Cuban and a fellow big time geek.
In college I met some of the brightest, wisest and most talented group of individuals I have ever met; most, if not all, were non-White males. I met Geek Soul Brother, Toby One and El Camino while working on campus. I befriended the illustrator Ron Wimberly, Julian Lytle, the MC known as Substantial (plus his wonderful wife) and many more; including two of my closest friends. And throughout the years I have established some relationships with many over at Black Girl Nerds, the guys at the Black Geeks and several more over Twitter.
I do not bring this up to brag or to prove anything to anyone. If anything, I use these examples because with these relationships and experiences comes a certain perspective that is invaluable. One that many people who are White will never get a chance to experience, unfortunately.
The geek community has its flaws, but the one thing that pulls us together is that we were all misfits and outcasts when we were younger. Some hid our geekiness growing up to fit in but, ultimately, we were all in the same boat. And in that lies our strength; we are all outcasts together. That our community – despite its differences – is all-inclusive; it loves all and serves all.
Yet, in order for our community to thrive to its potential, we cannot just be all-inclusive. We need our brothers and sisters of various cultures and backgrounds to have a chance to inject new life into the community and in the media we consume. To call out companies when they make decisions that disenfranchises a group – whether it be a different ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation – for the benefit of a few. To support one another and shame those who troll or bully others for simply having a difference of opinion or an opposing point of view. To support those who are attempting to change or add to narratives presented to us, and not just rely on a large conglomerate whose sole concern is to make money.
So no, I was not Black in a previous life (though I have come to the conclusion I may have been Japanese, but that is a different story entirely.) I am me; someone who is more concerned with a person and their story than some preconceived notion of what they are supposed to be based on their race or background. That when injustices or some nonsensical notion arises, I am right there to fight them in any way I can. To support and promote stories that not only excite and inspire little Jonathan’s, but little Geek Soul Brothers, Jamie Broadnaxs, Big Baba Robs, Regine Locketts and many more. I do not support the Blerd community and Feminist geeks just because they are my friends. I support them because everyone deserves a story, a character, and actor, a writer or an artist they can truly identify with and inspire them to find their own voices.