Opinion: Revisiting the black nerds

Bruce Walton

Bruce Walton

Bruce Walton is a sophomore news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

I’ll admit that being a columnist is hard, though as long as you have an opinion every week, you’re pretty much set. But to be a good columnist — and I am putting an emphasis on “good” — you have to be willing to go the extra mile, respond to hate mail, admit when you’ve made a mistake, cover all sides of an issue and make every letter count in about 500 words. I still don’t know if I’m a good columnist, but I believe I’m on my way. However, I have lost my way in one column that I’d like to make amends for today.

Xavier Braxton, a black sophomore psychology major who wanted to talk to me about my “Rise of the black nerds” column from last semester, feeling that it was offensive in some ways, contacted me last week. I apologized for if I had offended him or anyone else and set a date and time to meet him as soon as possible. I was a bit anxious at first, hoping I had not made an enemy over an issue. But when I met with Braxton, I found him to be a very intelligent, respectable and reasonable person with whom I ended up having a very nice conversation at the Hub.

My column was about how the media had started to recognize black nerds and how, as one myself, I was happy that there was some recognition. But Xavier pointed out that I had given no middle ground.

I was simply identifying black nerds and black gangstas, or thugs, as the only social types of African-Americans. I never meant this, of course, but my column made it look like that. There are many different social backgrounds of African-Americans, as much as any other ethnicity, and I urge blacks from all walks of life to be anything they want; there can be black goths, jocks, preps, stoners, geeks, musicians, fashion divas — anything! I was being too personal in my column and forgot the true message: that mainstream media is expanding its view on black people as more than just gangbangers and poor, ignorant people living in ghettos. Black people are being recognized for being intellectual and well-off individuals of any social background and not just as nerds.

I want to thank Braxton for coming to me about this problem, and to say I am sorry if I was misinterpreted. I thank him for the courage and honesty to contact me and for wanting to discuss this with me in-person. I also want my readers to know that I want anyone who has a problem with what I write about to talk to me.

I’m not just writing for myself; I’m writing for students with the same ideals, who don’t have a voice, and to provide a new perspective to readers without those ideals. Email me; thank me; criticize me; ask me why I wrote something; give me ideas. I’m here for my fellow students to speak for those who speak as loud as they can and still cannot be heard. This column is mine as much as it is yours.