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Turk: Hey, baby. I know things haven't exactly gone smoothly so far, but I promise you I'm about to make it up to you. I spent all weekend talking to my cousin who just so happens to be the world's biggest blerd. (receives a questioning look from Elliot and Carla) It's a black nerd.
The Black Nerd is a countertrope to common racial stereotypes. Most nerds are portrayed by races with the stereotype of being weak or bookish, such as whites, Asians, and Jews. Blacks, on the other hand, are often portrayed as jive-talking Soul Brothas, Gang-Bangers, or Scary Black Men. The Black Nerd upsets these trends by being, well, a Black Nerd.
Writers might deliberately invoke the trope to shake things up and challenge the audience's assumptions, but other times the trope is only used to turn a smart supporting character into the Token Black. The Black Nerd character is usually intended to ignore racial issues at least onscreen. He is rarely ever perceived as Acting White, however.
Often the Black Nerd is simply an expert in a nerdy field, such as computers, and doesn't really possess many negative characteristics commonly found in nerds of other races. This variant of the Black Nerd is vulnerable to Positive Discrimination due to the sometimes overly high level of overall competence resulting from their intelligence combined with a lack of flaws to counterbalance. There are also quite a few people that have a thing for geeky black guys/girls, mostly due to them not being as prominent. A popular type of Black Best Friend. See also Asian and Nerdy and just plain Nerd.
Anime & Manga
- Jose Rodriguez, Ken Murata's doctor in Kyo Kara Maoh! is an Ambiguously Brown American with dreadlocks and glasses who is obsessed with Japanese culture and runs off to Akihabara whenever he goes to Japan.
- George Hamilton III in Peter Bagges' Slice of Life Comic Book Hate. (He appears as a supporting character, and, no, the title does not refer to racism.)
- Alex Wilder, in Runaways. He's even introduced playing a Marvel MMORPG.
- The upper-class psychiatrist in Watchmen is a black man, contrasted with the low-class, street-smart, red-headed Rorschach.
- Hardware's best friend Deacon "Phreaky Deak" Stuart.
- Jason Rusch, the second Firestorm.
- Michael "Mr. Terrific" Holt, the third (yes, third) smartest man in the DCU.
- Ken of Dork Tower.
- Mike Peterson of The Awesome Slapstick
- Prodigy of the New X-Men
- Albert Cleary of Damage Control.
- Smart Brother from Undercover Brother.
- In the first Die Hard film, the computer hacker is black, wears glasses, and doesn't have any combat skills. He spends most of his time making basketball references, as if to prove that he's black.
- Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitman in the 2007 Transformers movie, to the extent that when Epps compares claw slashes in a steel wall to Freddy Krueger, Glen jumps in and geeks out by insisting that it was Wolverine, his reasoning being there were three claw marks (Wolverine has three claws on each hand) and Freddy Krueger has four claws. After a Beat, Simmons claims this outburst to be "very funny".
- Ving Rhames in the Mission: Impossible movies. Like other iffy examples of the trope, he's not really a nerd at all. In fact, he's arguably a Scary Black Man who happens to be a super-hacker as well. Most likely his race is a reference to Barney Collier in the original TV show, who really is a nerd.
- Brian in The Day After Tomorrow puts a lampshade on it: "Sir, I am president of the electronics club, the math club, and the chess club. Now, if there is a bigger nerd in here, please point him out."
- Wybie from Coraline though his entire racial background is only mentioned in a deleted scene.
- Wybie's black grandmother is shown at the end of the theatrical version.
- Dean Cain, the villain of How High. A subversion of sorts, since he's repressing an inner Soul Brotha, which is unleashed by THC.
- Sonar man Jonesey in The Hunt for Red October.
- Dee Jay from Street Fighter.
- Miles Dyson in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is a genius black man in a nerdy field, though he displays no nerdy qualities.
- Ray Arnold, played by Samuel L. Jackson, in Jurassic Park is the park's chief engineer, a nerdy field, though he displays no nerdy characteristics. Contrasting him is Wayne Knight's character Dennis
NerdyNedry, who is a standard, fat, white computer nerd.
- Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) and especially Condoleezza Rice (Thandie Newton) come off this way in W., Oliver Stone's interpretation of the presidency of George W. Bush.
- Ethan in Sky High is this, right down to the button-up shirts and dorky glasses.
- Duncan Pinderhughes in Class Act, he is a genius high school student who was getting ready for graduation, but is somewhat disheartened to find out that, despite his perfect SAT score and 4.0 GPA, Harvard University will not admit him unless he can pass phys. ed.
- Jamie Foxx's character in Collateral
- That really tall convict from Bad Boys.
- Johnson, Bob Morton's friend and fellow exec at OCP in the RoboCop movies.
- Lamar Latrell, The Camp Gay, Twofer Token black nerd in the Revenge of the Nerds films.
- Ronald Wilkes in Cedar Rapids (who, in one scene, lapses into a Scary Black Man impersonation in order to get his friends out of a fight. He reveals afterwards that he was impersonating a character from "the HBO program The Wire," of which he is a huge fan).
- In the Jim Carrey comedy Me, Myself & Irene, the protagonist's three black sons: Jamaal, Shonté Jr. and Lee Harvey are simultaneously Black Nerds as well as Slang-Speaking Scary Black Men.
- Harry in Michael Crichton's Sphere.
- Yo-less in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy. So called because he never, ever says "Yo".
- There was a character like this in the novel The Lost World- the sequel to Jurassic Park, that is, not the Arthur Conan Doyle one.
- Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash combines this trope with Asian and Nerdy, being half black and half Japanese as well as one of the better hackers and programmers around. However, he's not much of a nerd at all. In fact, he's got a beautiful ex-girlfriend, a bunch of friends, and badass sword skills both in and out of Cyberspace.
- Of course, being a nerd doesn't preclude the possibility of having all the attributes you mention.
- Jalil in Everworld.
- Óscar de León in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
- Radar in John Green's Paper Towns.
- Fat Charlie of Anansi Boys, in contrast to his cool "brother", Spider.
- In the Rivers of London books, by his own admission DC Peter Grant is more than a bit nerdy, gangly and tends to have a shaggy haircut looking. Not that you'd know by the American covers where he is inexplicably metamorphosed into a Scary Black Man with a Bald of Awesome.
- Isaiah in Someone Elses War. (Well...all the characters are black, but he's the only one who's nerdy.)
Live Action TV
- Steve Urkel in Family Matters. Also his Ax Crazy Stalker with a Crush Myra.
- One of the earliest examples is Sergeant Kinchloe (played by Ivan Dixon) in Hogan's Heroes, the camp's radio and electronics genius.
- Only a year later, Barney Collier (played by Gred Morris) was the Token Black on the original Mission: Impossible team, hired specifically for his electrical/mechanical genius.
- Cookie in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide
- Malcolm and Hal's primary friends are a father and son team of these on Malcolm in the Middle. Stevie was also a Genius Cripple, making him a Twofer Token Minority.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder had a go with this one with Ethan. Besides the fact he's semi-athletic.
- Moss, from The IT Crowd, is the extreme variation of this trope. More so than Urkel.
- The Cat's alter-ego Duane Dibbley in Red Dwarf. He was introduced as the Cat's worst nightmare in the Despair Squid episode, then proved popular enough for a return appearance when a psychic monster sapped the Cat of his cool. John-Jules' claims the character is so popular because "no-one's ever written a black nerd before."
- Toofer on Thirty Rock. In the Pilot, he's told "Are there other black nerds or is it just you and Urkel?"
- Gus in Psych, although he's tried all his life to hide it...not very well.
- With all the comic books, spelling bee love, and Grammar Nazi; I can't even tell he's trying to hide it. Probably tries because Shawn dissaproves.
- Hardison, The Smart Guy of the Leverage team. Subverted in that he's also the coolest guy in the room. Any room.
- Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- On the short-lived Comedy Central series Halfway Home the character Sebastian wants people to think he's a gangsta when the fact is he is a suburban kid who got arrested for hacking.
- Ollie Creekly from Saved by the Bell.
- Dr. Miranda Bailey from Grey's Anatomy. An interesting example as she is also the resident Sassy Black Woman.
- Micah from Heroes is a child prodigy, and probably the smartest character on the show. Technically he is multiracial (as is the character's actor), as his mother is white.
- Alexandra Moreau from Poltergeist: The Legacy is the rare female (and positively portrayed) example of this trope.
- Gary on What I Like About You, at least before the Seasonal Rot.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge.
- Jake Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine generally fits the trope.
- One could argue he is the ultimate subversion of nerd in all of Trek fandom. The majority of human characters on the show that we have seen are science nerds who work in Star Fleet or are preparing to do so. Jake rejects this and just wants to be a writer. He's a non-nerd in a society compromised of nerds...and he's black.
- Turk from Scrubs is both a black nerd (Or "blerd", as he calls it) and one of the show's cooler characters.
- Henry Deacon on Eureka.
- Marcus "Augur" Devereaux on Earth: Final Conflict, although he's a downtown cyber-punk hipster kind of nerd.
- Franklin Aloysius Mumford from My Wife and Kids.
- Brother Mouzone from The Wire is exhibits some nerdy traits, such as being immaculately dressed in a bow-tie suit, a high-brow speaker, an avid reader, and an intellectual. However, he's also a ruthless drug gang enforcer.
- TJ Henderson, The Smart Guy from, err, Smart Guy.
- Jal from Skins: smart, sensible, and a talented musician. Often teased for being too uptight.
- In Degrassi the Next Generation, Liberty Van Zandt is the queen of the nerds. Lakehurst's Damian might also count for this trop. In later seasons, Connor takes over Liberty's role as Supreme Black Nerd.
- P.J.'s best friend Emmet from Good Luck Charlie.
- Jordan from The Bernie Mac Show.
- Adorkable Becca of Huge, an ardent LAR Per.
- Raj from What's Happening!! . He's the original black nerd! Besides wearing big glasses he was seventeen and still getting spanked with a belt by his mama!
- Darius Hawthorne on Aaron Sorkin's short lived series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
- Holby City neatly subverts this trope, with La Charne Jolly being a rare female example. Alternatively, Ric Griffin...no, not related to Peter...
- Lem from Better Off Ted
- Dexter, Alfonso's uncle on Silver Spoons.
- Leo of Fairly Legal is an avid World of Warcraft and Magic: The Gathering player.
- Chris Rock expresses this opinion of his childhood self in Everybody Hates Chris: "Before the Internet, there were only two black nerds. Me, and this guy."
- Troy in Community, although being a former prominent high-school jock, shares a lot of geeky pursuits with his pal Abed.
- Cash from Breaking In is such a big Trekkie the agency found him stalking William Shatner, and was able to get Captain Kirk's chair as a reward for keeping him away. He also wanted to do a paired Star Wars cosplay, and was offended when the protagonist refused to join.
- David, the Black Best Friend in Wishbone, fits the smart, competent black computer geek kid stereotype.
- Stevie in Malcolm in the Middle.
- Mac from The Fades, who has a very wide variety of geeky interests to which he compares the show's central premise.
- Boomer from the original Battlestar Galactica can fit this trope, since he does have a knack for hot-wiring, such as on 'hovormobiles' as revealed in the episode 'Fire In Space'.
- The rock musical Passing Strange focuses on a middle-class young black man from L.A. who is into Zen Buddhism and spirituality, and leaves home to travel Europe and commune with other artists. Somewhat subverted in that he's also rock musician. The character is actually based upon the show's co-writer and narrator Stew, of the band The Negro Problem.
- Marcus in FoxTrot. He's actually the Black Best Friend of equally nerdy Jason Fox, and his dad is apparently some sort of scientist; Jason borrows his oscilloscope on one occasion.
- Oliver Wendell Jones, from the comic strip Bloom County. Probably best illustrated in the strip sequence when his mother tries to get him to act a little more 'black' by wallpapering his room with a huge picture of Michael Jackson's face. Oliver responds by hanging a picture of Albert Einstein over it.
- Lemont Brown from Candorville is a rare main character example of this. He never acts in a manner contrary to the trope, so he can be a bit weak for a protagonist, but thanks to Character Focus he's more fleshed out than most examples.
- Huey and Caesar from The Boondocks fit this to a T, especially Huey (who frequently references Star Wars). Riley has actually called them nerds on occasion.
"You wouldn't normally think a black kid would be running a high-school computer lab, but we have one doing just that," Blochner said of her show, whose uplifting and dignified portrayal of black youths in America is being widely credited for the sudden flowering of racial justice and harmony across the nation.
- Harvard Law graduate David Otunga qualifies, what with his goofy bowties and argyle sweater-vests.
- Bully's Cornelius and Sheldon, played straight.
- Your Voice with an Internet Connection in Red Faction, Hendrix. Needless to say, he doesn't make it to the end of the game.
- Louis from Left 4 Dead works in IT. That alone might not be enough to make him into a nerd, but in comparison to Bill and Francis, who are a retired Green Beret who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and a Badass Biker, he can come across as a mix of one and an Action Survivor.
- The Sacrifice DLC shows him to be a bigger nerd than once originally thought. He can read Japanese, makes a joke by comparing computer firewalls with molotovs, and is worried about having no internet or Xbox to play with when he and the other survivors go to the Flordia Keys to live on an island.
- Jim Chapman in Resident Evil enjoys crossword puzzles, and is rather wimpy in all other respets.
- Donald Anderson in Metal Gear Solid and Sigint in Metal Gear Solid 3 (who are technically the same character), They're not exactly as nerdy as Otacon or other scientist characters, but they're not exactly skilled soldiers either.
- Dr. Diggins from Fossil Fighters. Brilliant scientist, able to understand alien technology. Lover of dinosaurs. Dorky enough (or just that Crazy Awesome) to wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt beneath his lab coat.
- Meredith Baker from Bliss Stage: First and Final Act was the top of her her class before The Bliss hit, and a literary Sci Fi and Fantasy Fan Girl to the point of wearing a freaking House Ravenclaw scarf.
- Steve in Khaos Komix.
- Duane in Penny and Aggie.
- Ian Jones-Quartey, author of RPG World, if his portrayal of himself in his autobiographical series IanComix is anything to go by.
- Sensei Greg of El Goonish Shive is obsessed with anime, and even invented anime style martial arts.
- Brandi of Wapsi Square is a female example. While her intellect isn't always apparent, she's still a huge fan of Star Trek and other such shows.
- Graffiti on the Sun 's The Kid With The Cubed Fro
- The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers has The Fanboyz, a trio of, well, Ascended Fanboys all of whom are Black and Nerdy.
- The Nitro Game Injection podcast has this in Larry Oji. Not only does he love video game music, he is also a huge Professional Wrestling geek.
- Jericho of the Whateley Universe. He's fifteen years old and is building power armor. Working power armor. His clothes are also the most horrible thing on a campus full of HalfHumanHybrids and other monstrosities.
- AJ in Fairly Oddparents, along with his cousin Tucker in Danny Phantom (both were created by Butch Hartman)'. Although AJ has been Flanderized into an Insufferable Genius with a touch of Positive Discrimination.
- In Recess, Vince's older brother is this, though it's used only to illustrate a difference between him and Vince, who's an ace athlete.
- One of the three nerds who roomed with Homer at Springfield U. in The Simpsons.
- The character in question, Benjamin, was once mistaken for Urkel in the comics.
- Wyatt from 6teen isn't a complete nerd, but he is the most intellectual of the group. Though he looked very geeky as a kid (complete with glasses and vest).
- Walter "Doc" Hartford of Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers both fits and subverts the trope. A bonna-fide computer psychiatry Ph.D. and top-notch hacker, he is also prone to making pop culture wisecracks and fond of jive slang, often acting as the team's comic relief. However, he also acts as the team's Deadpan Snarker and the Badass Normal.
- Odie in Class of the Titans: he's the team Smart Guy, being the distant descendant of Odysseus.
- Cyborg in the animated Teen Titans series. Unlike the other interpretations of Cyborg over DC history, this version learned robotics and rebuilt himself.
- Also a Genius Bruiser.
- Cleo Carter from Tutenstein, when it comes to Egyptology.
- Jodie from Daria. She wasn't that nerdy, but her parents were constantly on top of her to do well, often at the expense of a social life. Mack was also one of these to an extent, although he was also a football player and one of the popular kids.
- In Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, Steel is a history buff, but mildly nerdy.
- Cleveland's son Cleveland Jr. (and Cleveland himself, to a slightly lesser degree).
- J.D. Bennett/I.Q. from Bionic Six.
- Irwin from "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" Yo.
- Twins Orangella and Lemonjella LaBelle from Detention.
- Max Gibson from Batman Beyond is a computer hacker and scored a perfect 2400 on her SAT Expy.
- Brock from The Godzilla Power Hour isn't particularly nerdy, but he is Dr. Darien's science intern and definitely a smart guy.
- Alan ("Brain") from Arthur, apparently. He's an animal like everyone else, but he celebrates Kwanzaa.
- One of the members of Minoriteam is Fasto, the jive-talking, womanizing fastest man alive. His civilian identity is that of Lando K. Dutton, a nebbish bookworm and professor of Women's Studies.
- Static/Virgil from Static Shock. He's an honor roll student that's heavily into Comic Books/Superheroes and occasionally gets bullied around (especially pre-series).
- Tucker from Danny Phantom is both a black nerd and a Black Best Friend.
- Nicely summed up by Donald Glover (famous for being a black nerd on Community)
"...I'm a black nerd and that shit was illegal 'till like, 2003."
- This may come as a shocker for most people, but a certain Bad Motha Fucka is also a nerd. Granted, he's a nerd who can kick your ass for calling him a nerd, but he's a nerd still. (As if major roles as a Jedi, two superheroes, and a supervillain didn't give that way)
- Real Life example: Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, is an avowed fan of Star Trek, collected Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Man comic books, is hopelessly addicted to his Blackberry, follows Aperture Science on Twitter, and made Internet culture and technology concerns a cornerstone of his campaign.
- Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, JCS Chairman, and Star Trek fan.
- Tay Zonday.
- Washington DC has a substantial black anime community.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson: astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and host of NOVA ScienceNow on PBS. The public face of science in America.
- Pierre Bernard, Conan O'Brien's graphic designer.
- Rosario Dawson. Also Puerto Rican and still nerdy. Not to mention hot.
- Lupe Fiasco. Loves Anime, manga, videogames, skateboarding, martial arts, and coincidentally is one of the most creative and talented rappers out there.
- Pharrell Williams played in a marching band in high school, enjoys Star Trek and the words of Carl Sagan, and one of his bands is named N.E.R.D.
- Now compare and contrast Lupe and Pharrell to Soulja Boy, who isn't as loved for being a nerd because he doesn't have half the talent that the former two have.
- US immigration policy gives strong preference to people with skills and education, which means that this trope is often Truth in Television when it comes to African immigrants and their children. (This policy is also one of the main causes of Asian and Nerdy.) Statistically, sub-Saharan African immigrants have higher levels of educational attainment than all other American ethnic/immigrant groups, including whites and Asians.
- The Atlantic's senior editor and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates. Aside from his more obvious American history and music nerdom, he's a huge fan of comic books and plays World of Warcraft. According to his memoir The Beautiful Struggle, he was also a bit of a Cloudcuckoolander as a kid.
- Sports Center anchor Stuart Scott.
- "Popular gaming pundit" N'Gai Croal, of Edge and (formerly) Newsweek, among others.
- Aisha Tyler has a "I Can Kick Your Ass At Halo" shirt, and in one stand-up routine claimed that she would never have kids because that would eat into her Halo time.
- Players of the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG who play in California will that there are a lot of black players. This wouldn't be noticeable aside from that black players from California tend to act in a manner that wouldn't clue you in that they were nerdy in the slightest, acting as street tough, like the people who you would expect to make fun of you in school for playing the game.
- Alfonzo Rachel of the Macho Sauce Productions fame is a huge fan of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica and, in his own words, a sci-fi dork. Of course, he himself doesn't look all that nerdy.
- Rapper MF DOOM, full-stop. His stage persona is, quite literally, Dr. Doom as a rapper, and in almost any given song, he makes it very clear that he is One of Us, frequently including shout outs to Star Trek, Fist of the North Star, Predator, Scooby Doo, and more.
- This guy, so so much.
- LeVar Burton plays these sorts of characters a little too well to be entirely acting, as evidenced by his work as Geordi LaForge (who really ought to be the trope image) and his work on Reading Rainbow.
- Many of the top fighters within Fighting Game tournaments are black.