My mother knew reading to me would eventually get me a Business degree which recently became an English degree. Regrettably, I wasn’t always comfortable choosing the stories that I connected to. In 2000, I came into musical heaven. Although the rumors were high that anyone liking boy bands were gay, I soaked myself in dance music. I got into DJ Sammy who remixed Bryan Adams. I found Blink 182, Fuel, LFO, and Sugar Ray.
I found a friend who had the biggest CD collection I had ever seen. She made me funky mix-tapes that got me through some awkward and stressful crises.
I got into white guy soul—-music with dense lyrics. This was when R&B became poppy. R&B with real instruments was dying due to hip-hop’s popularity. You had the featured singer cooing with the “sandpaper” hip-hop rapper.
In a real way, the Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC help me embrace myself in a way I never would have been able to do. And in this way, I was able to fight color-ism in a way that I’m still doing currently.
I’m a black guy that likes ideas, things that don’t jibe always with the dominant culture of South Louisiana. The dominant culture here is: football, hunting, fishing, blues, families, and conservatism by way of family and faith. People don’t always understand that although many blacks vote Democrat, they are often “conservative” on issues that follow some Republican ideology. Consider that the black family is just as committed to maintaining itself just like other folks. Surely, most of us want to keep our familial bonds tight because we understand that support is crucial to change and progress.
And underneath that posture, I push to like Beck Hansen, not because he’s Canadian or from Los Angeles. He’s just a weird experimental white guy with layers. I came to like him when he released “The Information” in 2006. I had just gotten a degree from technical school the year . Among my favorite tracks from that album were “We Dance Alone,” “Think I’m In Love” and “Cellphone’s Dead” I was still understanding that my tastes had nothing to do with being black, and everything to do feeling invisible. And this invisibility made me brave enough to engage with people and things that were outside of the box people had placed me in. Granted, I think he’s a Scientologist. But if that works for his success, I have no problem. I can be me, and just not care about that piece.
I mean even as I write this, I’m listening to the Pet Shop Boys sing “One More Chance” while simultaneously being aware that they are British and that Neil Tennant is 63. I still love this song! I don’t let how they look get under my skin so badly that I cannot love what they create together. There’s a defiance about their music that pumps me up. Even the lyrics tell a story I’d want to read even though the story is short.
“The city is quiet, too cold to walk alone…”
That’s an intro to a novel!
Being black does not command that black men and women lease their creative influences to only black entertainers and authors. Honestly, being so in touch with the struggle of black nerd visibility must push us forward to let others know we are HERE too!
Do you know that Peter Lutz is Belgian and I didn’t care. I danced to “What a Feeling” in 2006 when it released and years later at the club with my bestie from college. At some level, I got sick of proving to others that there had to be some ulterior motive for why I liked dance music. I just knew dance songs made me HAPPY.
So if I like Panic at the Disco, and Marcus Scribner from Blackish, I shouldn’t need to be self-conscious that in some weird universe the thinking can’t intersect and be just fine wherever it is.
I can like graphic novels, jazz, art, and whatever else if it adds variety to my own unique identity.
It’s MARCH. And I march to my own drums. A dancey, artsy, musical, edm, foo-fighting drum, that is not obsessed with color, but latching on to the story, the purpose, the detail and the light of non-homogeneous inspiration.
I’m thankful for black nerds like W. Kamau Bell, Trevor Noah, Keegan Key, Jordan Carlos, and the list goes on. I’m hopeful that the next iteration of young black high school kids won’t ever face what I dealt with coming into my own.