Monday, July 30, 2007

Nerds Are...Hyperwhite?

The New York Times has a serious, thought-provoking article about nerds,
their history, their characteristics, their ways. The article is serious because these are my people, and they deserve attention. It is thought-provoking because the author, a linguist from UC-Santa Barbara, has spent 11 years on this and has missed all the most obvious points in favor of some highly debatable ones. Dr. Mary Bucholz's idea is that because nerds don't use black slang (and don't dance well?) they are hyperwhite, using superstandard English as a cultural marker.

She completely misses that lots of nerds aren't white. A fair number are from India, China, Japan - and even (who would have thought it, doctor?) black, hispanic, native American. She also leaves out the fact that they can actually do math, in contrast to many others educated in, oh, linguistics*, for example. My A&H Tribe, again brought low by placing so much emphasis on coolness as a measure of adjustment, and soiling their knickers with profound racism.

There are some very nice takedowns of the study at American Thinker and Just One Minute. I will only add that journalists and political junkies ache to claim nerd status, attempting to create the neologism "wonk" as a geek/nerd synonym. They delude themselves. There are nerds and geeks inside the beltway, but they got there by trying very hard to get the answers right on the wide variety of issues decided there: fisheries, student loans, vaccinations, and whatever. It's not the same thing as wanting to "make a difference," or "make government responsive to people."

*I love some branches of linguistics, but have to note that the currently fashionable studies have a lot of air pumped into them.


cold pizza said...

I always have been, and always will be, a nerd. -cp

Anonymous said...

Nerds do tend to be hyperwhite (even black, hispanic, middle-eastern, and asian ones), but that's not what makes them nerds.