Hey, hey all you wonderful Heroes and Travelers out there it’s Monday, and that means another Melanin Monday post!! For those of you just joining us, Melanin Monday is a bi-weekly post series that I started for Black History Month, where I talk about Black and Brown skinned characters in anime, manga, video games, etc., but you guys loved it so much I decided to continue it! The series has since expanded to cover discussions and my own personal stories about being a Black nerd, because being Black and being an otaku/nerd is all a part of what makes me, well, me.
I thought about this week’s topic for awhile, but unlike the previous weeks, I just couldn’t think of any snappy topics or lists, so I decided to go with something I knew I could easily write about… me! I know, I know, seems pretty shallow, but hear me out, I actually came up with the idea for this post after reading all of your comments on my previous Melanin Monday posts. (Yes, I read them, which is why it takes me so long to reply.) While I appreciate all comments and criticism, I was most surprised by how many Black nerds and otaku shared their stories with me about being Black in the otaku community and I’m not gonna lie, reading your comments really made my day, because you guys get it, you all get my struggle! I wish I could give you all a hug and thank you personally, because outside of my tenure at Howard and the internet, it’s not often that I meet fellow Black folks that openly admit to watching anime…
I was going to make this a one off post, but the longer I wrote the more I realized I had more than one story to share, so this will be a series within the Melanin Monday series… Series-ception! In this week’s Melanin Monday post I wanted to write about my early experiences being a black otaku, of course this isn’t the whole story, I’ll save those bits for future posts. I just wanted to share my stories the way so many of you have shared your stories with me, so this post is dedicated to all my fellow Black nerds and otaku!
There’s this unspoken agreement among Black nerds in general, that we are to conceal our love of all things nerdy for fear of being labelled, “weird”, “strange”, or the dreaded “oreo”. It’s akin to how superheroes like Superman and Spider-man all have their secret civilian identities, except we always wear our masks out of necessity, since watching anime isn’t considered “Black”. Now, I’m not going to get into what being “Black” means, because that is different for everyone, and I don’t have time to address all the nuances of that right now… Just know that I have had my Blackness called into question numerous times and I am not opposed to correcting people and their ignorance.
Revealing that I liked anime was a set up for a long drawn out defense of my own Blackness and why despite my love of “non-Black” things, I was in fact down for my people and our cause. Even among friends, so much as mentioning anime was almost always met with, “Oh, you like that stuff?” or my personal favorite, “Your into that weird stuff, those cartoons.” So, I learned to separate the two identities, because it was easier to be accepted for the lie than it was to be excluded for the truth… and I regret that now. There were probably a lot of other people like me, secret otaku, who were just waiting for someone else to share in their experience, I know I was. My parents as great as they are, didn’t get it, and even mentioning anime to my mom would warrant an hour long lecture about all the other things I could be doing with my time… chores, college applications, or more feminine pursuits, like fashion. So, I learned to keep quiet about my love of nerdy things when in the presence of my people.
I’m laughing, because as cliche as it sounds, it wasn’t until I went away to college that I met fellow Black nerds and otaku. I should preface this by saying that I went to Howard University for undergrad, and for those of you that don’t know, Howard is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of acceptance, since all the other Black individuals I interacted with weren’t into anime. So, imagine my surprise when I met people that looked like me that also loved anime as much as I did, it was the first time that I felt comfortable being me without having to hide anything and it was both strange and liberating! Sure, we were still kind of labelled as weird, but it didn’t matter as much, because we were weird together.
It’s actually thanks to the friends I met at Howard that I stopped separating my Blackness from my love of anime, the two things aren’t mutually exclusive, but for years that’s how I dealt with it. I went through the motions, acting how I thought a Black person was supposed to act in public, while in private I’d binge watch anime and read manga online. On the rare occasion someone mentioned an anime series I’d heard of, I simply pretended I didn’t know what they were talking about. It’s funny talking about this now, seeing how open I am about anime, but back then the fear of being rejected for liking anime was real… and I’d be lying if I said that fear was completely gone. I’m still very selective about how and with whom I share my otaku pursuits. Even among friends that know about my love of anime, I don’t share everything *cough* BL *cough otome game *cough* but, I’m working on that. I still get the same comments, it’s just that now they don’t matter as much anymore, I’m comfortable being me and you know what, I’ve met some amazing people because of it.
Looking back, I regret not being open about liking anime, manga, and other nerdy things. I regret not being comfortable enough with myself to wear my otaku-ness with pride. *sigh* So much wasted time and energy… So, I wrote this post for my fellow Black nerds, whether you were a secret otaku like me or open about your otaku-ness from the beginning and for anyone that felt that they had to hide their otaku-ness because they were afraid of being rejected because of it. You aren’t alone, we all have stories!
So, I want to hear from you guys! Tell me about your otaku experiences. Have you ever had to hide your love of anime from friends or family? Are you still hiding it? And for my Black nerds and otaku, I want to hear your otaku experiences!! Let me know what you think in the comments section. If you like what you see, like this post or follow Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! As always THANK YOU FOR READING!!