On the latest
, Randall ( This Is Us Sterling K. Brown) furiously bared his soul to an apparition of his late father Jack ( Milo Ventimiglia) after discovering that his mom Rebecca ( Mandy Moore) kept him from his biological father William ( Ron Cephas Jones).
“I spent my life striving for perfection,” Randall tearfully told the ghost of the man who loved and adopted him. “You know why, Dad? Because I live in fear that if I let up for a moment, I will remember that I am unwanted.”
While Randall’s fears stem from his birth parents abandoning him, there is something incredibly universal about his use of the word “unwanted” when it comes to black nerds. In a culture where athletes and rap stars dictate what is cool, black nerds work smarter not harder and prove it’s equally hip to be square.
Randall is cool in an uncool way like President Barack Obama — the king of black nerds — and he’s self-deprecating like Steve Urkel (
Jaleel White). He’s as brilliant as real-life astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and embraces fatherhood like Earn ( Donald Glover) on . He has a goofy laugh, a lucrative, but ambiguous career that involves math and a heart of gold — and fans can’t get enough. Atlanta
In honor of Randall, we’re celebrating his character and all the black nerds who have made TV a better place just in time for the fall finale of
This Is Us.
Randall (Sterling K. Brown) This Is Us, NBC For anyone who wants to debate whether or not Randall is a nerd, let’s examine his backstory. His parents had to enroll him in a special private school for smart kids, he once suffered from stress-induced blindness, he embarrasses his wife and daughters with his public singing and he delights in corny holiday traditions. Yup. He’s a nerd.
Chidi (William Jackson Harper) The Good Place, NBC Before he died, Chidi was an ethics and morals philosophy professor and apparently, an insufferably verbose author. But what makes Chidi so loveable aside from his black-rimmed glasses and his undeniable resemblance to a young Samuel L. Jackson is his ability to use his intellect to bring out the best in people.
Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) Grey’s Anatomy, ABC Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital would be lost without the professionalism, wisdom, and knowledge possessed by Dr. Bailey. Does she know it? Of course she does. The medical soap has been on the air for 13 seasons. But Bailey can also be as compassionate as she is brilliant.
Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) Family Matters, ABC There are those who will tell you that Urkel ruined Family Matters (ahem, eclipsed star Reginald VelJohnson). But for a whole generation of black bookworms, the bespectacled polyglot represented a fresh take on nerds of color for nine seasons until 1998.
Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) Timeless, NBC It’s hard to decide what is cooler, the fact that Rufus is defying stereotypes as a black intellectual with an actual libido or the fact that he’s time traveling. His interaction with black Civil War veterans was particularly inspiring – even if he is secretly double crossing Lucy (Abigail Spencer) and Wyatt (Matt Lanter).
Bernard/Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) Westworld, HBO Even before the writers and producers blew our minds with Bernard’s true identity and purpose, it was easy to see just how truly erudite this robotic scientist is. But is it possible to be too smart for one’s own good? We’ll find out.
Noah (Tyler James Williams) The Walking Dead, AMC Just before that ravenous cluster of zombies turned Noah into trail mix, Noah showed an aptitude for architecture and history. He was a learner, not a fighter. Maybe that’s why the Walkers enjoyed his big brain so much.
Troy (Donald Glover) Community, NBC Just as he does in real life, Glover plays roles that make fans question the definition of nerdiness because he’s so cool. But the pillow-and-blanket forts he and his bestie Abed (Danny Pudi) built and their Meta obsessions scream dork at the very least.
Earn (Donald Glover) Atlanta, FX Glover’s character on Atlanta is a Princeton dropout turned rap manager — who definitely would be fired up about Glover being cast as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo Star Wars prequel.
Molly (Yvonne Orji) Insecure, HBO Molly’s hair and makeup game suggest that she’s a Glamazon. But when walks her dog rocking a sweatshirt and glasses and bonds over the pressures of being the only black lawyer in her firm, it’s clear that Molly is a Poindexter in cigarette pants.
Mia Dickerson (Aisha Tyler) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS Aisha Tyler is a proud Dartmouth alum so it only makes sense that she’s so believable as a brainiac. As a recurring player on CSI, her season 5 character proved to be a studious and helpful DNA lab tech.
Wes (Alfred Enoch) How To Get Away with Murder, ABC In a perfect world, Wes would’ve been too smart to commit murder and (SPOILER!) become a victim of it, but that’s the reality of HTGAWM. No one is safe except lawyer Annalise Keating (Emmy-winning star Viola Davis).
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele Key & Peele, Comedy Central Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele rose to fame with a brilliant impersonation of President Obama and Luther, his anger translator. The need for such a sketch proves that in order to successfully parody a black nerd, you have to be one.
Maurice (Richard Ayoade) The IT Crowd, Channel 4 and NBC Maurice is awkward in so many awesome ways. If there were a way to make friends by espousing technical jargon about electronic engineering and chemistry, Maurice would’ve been the most popular bloke at work on this British sitcom. But nah.
Freddie Brooks (Cree Summer) A Different World, NBC Don’t let her quirky ways, bad taste in men and wild hair fool you. Once Freddie focused on hers studies this awkward free spirit was unstoppable and went on to law school.
Andre “Junior” Johnson (Marcus Scribner) Black-ish, ABC In a recent episode, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) was heartbroken when Junior brought home his white girlfriend. She thought it was an affront to her as a black mother. But everyone else in the family was just happy the nerdy, Dothraki-speaking weirdo had found someone who could love him back.