Nerd is not a tribe



“By imagining nerds as a race of their own…” (What!?! That sounds absurd! Really?) “white supremacy” (Ohh… like the KKK, they literally believe white people are better?) Wait a minute, is that hyperbole intended to inflame passions and get people to click on a link and read a thing?

You got me again, internet!


Nerd is not a tribe, it is a loose confederation of many tribes.

(I would link to the Geek Hierarchy Flowchart, except the company’s helpful filter is blocking Brunching Shuttlecocks for “porn.”)


From the article:

“Silicon Valley monopolizes our national ideas about the future, aided by a presumption that the industry is exceptionally progressive when it comes to race. It’s this monopoly that turns the idea of putting iPads in the hands of every child into an urgent need. If we are to challenge Silicon Valley as the shining embodiment and most aggressive promulgator of a neoliberal future, then we need to attack its futurity. We can start by emphasizing how woefully retrograde it is—how 19th century its economics are, certainly, but especially its racial politics.”

Thank you BoingBoing for posting this.


The KKK is a domestic terrorist group that utilizes violence to express their self-styled support for the continuation of white supremacy. (Also the KKK is an example of the terrible social consequences of the divide and conquer strategies of the ruling interests.) White supremacy is a factual state of US demographics and is in no way dependent on extremism to exist - although it does help the status quo to appear benign in comparison.


“By imagining nerds as a race of their own, Silicon Valley tries…”

Which came first, Silicon Valley imagining nerds as a race of their own, or the entire U.S. culture doing so?

It’s a little odd that this article seems to talk as though “nerds” have been seen as the good group to be in since the 60s.


The numbers the author uses to make the “nerd=white” argument defeat the argument. Yes, tech companies don’t employ Blacks and Hispanics at levels reflecting their numbers in society. But they certainly employ more than the demographic percentage of Asians.


This exactly. Even in Silicon Valley if people who work in tech = “nerds”, I’m pretty much thinking nerds = primarily whites and asians. But maybe asians are considered “white” now. Maybe we’re the “right” kind of yellow to brown…

It’s not a good thing to keep putting the words nerd/geek right next to the words supremacist/sexist/misogynist/racist.

1 Like

The tech industry absolutely has a
selection bias. I don’t believe it is anything as complex as thinking one group is better than another, but simply a historical representation of nepotism and hiring/liking people that look like you.

So I personally have hope this issue will get marginally better soon. But if my assumptions are right the root cause (historical nepotism and clustering of Like individuals) will be super hard to change.


That’s not what self selection means: nepotism and in-group hiring is just plain old (external) selection.


Point taken, edited.

For me that article dives in and out of what is important. The issue is mostly economic. More racial equality in employment will happen if the feeder system (school) yields more diverse graduates. Family support is huge but even there race statistics seem to divide along economic lines. The author seems to ignore the stereotyped-for-a-reason Asian family that drives their child to excel in school.

The author loses me a little in how the race drama in Silicon Valley is presented. I went to high school in Redwood City, central to the region, and college in San Francisco. But I was in NYC for 7th through 9th grades of my education. When my classmates in Redwood City sometimes talked about racial tensions in school I had to laugh at them. They had no idea what real racial conflict was, compared to school in Manhattan. A few natural cliques are not a sign of serious separation or tension.

Silicon Valley is, or at least was, the national symbol for the self-made man. It was where any nut could start a business in their garage and succeed. Race was never a talking point, despite the statistics (yep, sure were a lot of white entrepreneurs).

I think the author’s argument is okay as a way to focus attention on improving the feeder system and whatever social support would help low-income families raise good students. I do not think the argument is okay as a vehicle for nerd-shaming.


I don’t disagree that comparatively the valley appears to be more of a meritocracy than other places. However I have worked at many places and only had two Latino and four black coworkers in 15 years.

Considering the economic stakes–i.e. tech jobs pay pretty well–it is troubling. Even just from a purely greedy level it greatly troubles me–if some how I am missing out on almost half of candidates for a job due to race bias, the odds of me finding the “right one” are way harder.

This problem is fixable, but the project plan and release cycle are likely to be measured in generations. However that doesn’t mean we can’t put out some Dot releases. (Did I jargon enough? :D)


Since when did you have to be white to be a Nerd?


They need to try a bit harder…

Via Imgur


That’s an interesting question.

The Sobering Reality of Actual Black Nerd Problems


He WAS a nerd but things are more a dangerous being black in America. More like we are dealing with separate properties.

Like it is more dangerous to be stopped by a cop if your are black:


There are material advantages to participating in nerd culture. So it’s significant that there are pressures on people of color that threaten to push them out of it.


It’s a valid concern in the abstract, but IMO there is too much supposition here and not much factual perspective.

Even asserting that “nerds” are a white group in the first place can be construed as starting the whole article on a racist premise in the first place - although I suspect that this was not the author’s intention. Also, are Silicon Valley companies mostly staffed by nerds? Or do they tend to hire nerds only to fulfill certain functions?

The stats might not be so telling, since in most places (not sure about Kalifornia) identifying as being any race is optional, they do not have data for everyone. Another fabrication is the minuscule demographic of “two or more race” people - 2%-4%? Geneticists can tell you that hardly anybody belongs only to a single race, most people just identify with a certain culture. I always leave “race” blank, or not-applicable myself since I don’t even believe these are useful or accurate categories.

Knowing whether the stats are indicative of woeful racial politics would require data which is not presented here. Such as comparing the demographics of actual employees with those of applicants. It is entirely possible that the stats match up - if around 7% of the applicants are black, and around 7% of the employees are black, then there would be no reason to assume that the group were being treated unfairly. There might not be any reason to assume that an even distribution of demographics are going to want to do the same things.

I would be more interested to know of accounts of people who have worked there, and those who have tried to work there. Rather than change people’s experiences to match the statistics I would prefer to see.