Black History Month Heroes: U.N. Jefferson in "Revenge of the Nerds"

U.N. Jefferson laying down the law in Revenge of the Nerds

Popular culture (movies, magazines, television, commercials and the media) work overtime to create the enduring image of Black machismo — the idea of overwhelming Black coolness, indeed hyper-masculinity and dominance. 

Conversely anything “white” is obviously square, antiquated even and Black people represent the hip, the new, the now, and the fresh.

All ideas have a genesis and we at Stuff Black People Don’t Like have tracked down one of the ultimate Black Fictional Heroes in cinema history who helped usher in the current epoch of Black Run America (BRA) and the perceived notion of Black hegemony that emasculates so many people.

The movie? Revenge of the Nerds.

The Black Fictional Hero? U.N. Jefferson.

In that film, the fictional Adams College appears to be a highly ranked, elite institution of higher learning. The football team and the jocks of the school are all white. They run the campus, stand dominant over the party scene, the fraternity scene and represent the quintessential Alpha Male to a T.

A number of nerds on campus find the constant pranks and humiliation they experience too much to take and decide to wage war on the archetype of cool as personified by the Alpha White male jock. They turn to the most obvious form of salvation; a Black fraternity:

Best friends and nerds Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) enroll in Adams College to study computer science. The Alpha Betas, a fraternity to which many members of the school’s football team belong, carelessly burn down their own house and seize the freshmen dorm for themselves. The college allows the displaced freshmen, living in the gymnasium, to join fraternities or move to other housing. Lewis, Gilbert, and other outcasts who cannot join a fraternity renovate a dilapidated home to serve as their own fraternity house.

The Alpha Betas and their associated sorority, the Pi Delta Pis, harass the nerds. The nerds appeal to the Greek Council, but its president Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), the leader of the Alpha Betas, rejects their complaints as the nerds are not a part of any fraternity. The nerds attempt to join a national fraternity, but all but one reject them. They meet U.N. Jefferson (Bernie Casey), the head of the black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda (Tri-Lambs). Although Jefferson notes that the applicants are nerds, due to the Tri-Lambs’ rules, they receive probationary membership.

The nerds prepare a party and invite Jefferson, but the party is nearly ruined before it starts when the Pi Delta Pis, after promising to be their dates, do not appear. However, thanks to the Omega Mus – a sorority consisting largely of overweight or geeky women – and a supply of marijuana, the party is successful. The Alpha Betas and Pis unleash pigs in the nerds’ house, then taunt and moon them; Jefferson sees firsthand the harassment the nerds face.

The nerds seek revenge; they perform a panty raid on the Pi Delta Pi house, using the distraction to install video cameras to spy on the women while they undress. The nerds sneak into the football team’s locker room and put a powerful liniment on the players’ jock straps, resulting in a painful and humiliating football practice. The nerds’ ingenuity impresses Jefferson, who officially makes them the Adams College chapter of Lambda Lambda Lambda…

The angry Alpha Betas vandalize the Tri-Lambs’ house. Gilbert attempts to denounce the act at the homecoming pep rally, but the Alpha Betas attack him, and turn on the school’s dean when he tries to intervene. The assault is stopped when U.N. Jefferson and a group of angry Tri-Lambs from other chapters arrive on the scene. Gilbert makes an inspiring speech about how it feels to be mistreated just for being different, and Lewis invites anyone who has “ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down” to come and join them. Betty and many members of the assembled crowd, whether nerds or not, do so. The Tri-Lambs get the Alpha Beta house until theirs is repaired, while the Alpha Betas must live in the gymnasium. The film ends with the nerds celebrating their victory, accompanied by “We Are the Champions“.

A national Black fraternity decides to colonize at Adams College with a bunch white nerds (and one ostentatiously homosexual Black male), though the main nerd does make a crack that they will have the highest GPA’s of any of the Black Tri-Lamb chapters.

One Black writer in dissecting Revenge of the Nerds wrote this:

In Revenge of the Nerds, the nerds join a (previously) all-black national fraternity; the head of the fraternity organization becomes sympathetic to the nerds when he witnesses anti-nerd discrimination (the jocks drive pigs through the nerd’s house). The subtext is that Black people are our experts on discrimination, so if a Black character recognizes something as discrimination — even if the incident has nothing to do with race — the presumably mostly White audience should accept that it’s discrimination, too. (In the end, the nerds defeat John Goodman and the jocks because the nerds’ Scary Black Frat Friends come and physically protect the nerds, intimidating the white jocks.)

At the end of the movie, the white nerds indeed take over the school thanks to their fraternal Tri-Lamb Black brothers who show up to intimidate the white athletes of Adams College. Led by U.N. Jefferson who points a finger of doom at the white athletes, the entire student body of Adams College turns their backs upon the former heroes and joins in a wild celebration with the nerds and Blacks of Tri-Lamb.

The white athletes of Adams College look upon the Black Tri-Lamb’s that U.N. Jefferson brought as if they represent living and breathing Gods. It is one of the strangest scenes in film; virile individuals completely turned to jelly because of an angry Black finger.

Adams College flipped overnight, the nerds taking over thanks to Black muscle and Jefferson’s guidance. In real life,white members of Black fraternities is, well, incredibly rare:

Originally founded as a haven for African-American college students against the backdrop of American racism, the national policies of today’s nine predominantly Black fraternities and sororities are color-blind. Norma White, president of the nation’s oldest Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA), told one reporter that diversity is a sign of the times. With honorary members such as Eleanor Roosevelt and members of all hues, she says AKA can no longer refer to itself as all-Black organization. White says the organization remains a sorority founded for and by Black women, but now it s interracial. That s a reality many Black organizations are facing.

People may be noticing White members more often, says Cassandra Black, National President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., but they’re nothing new. “Our organizations, every one of them, have had some sort of White infusion probably almost since our founding, so to speak, whether through actual membership, honorary membership or support,” she says. “Throughout the last decade, it was somewhat difficult to make inroads without having someone part of the status quo in your corner.
Black, a life member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, says Whites make up just a small percentage on the national rosters. But she’s not surprised that the numbers are slowly increasing.

“It’s happening more now because our organizations offer a couple of things that have turned out to be very desirable for non-African-Americans–perpetual membership and community service to name a few,” she says. “We have a moral fabric that is more desirable to some people. Historically, White fraternities have reputations for drinking and other behaviors, and some people don’t want to be associated with that.”

The above article would have you believe that Black fraternities are all virtuous institutions that produce moral Black men. Revenge of the Nerds tries to showcase this as well, though the truth is far from what U.N. Jefferson would have you believe.

Remember that Black fraternities helped perpetuate the Brown Paper Bag Test. Do you think a bunch of white nerds would be allowed to become brothers, regardless of the bump in cumulative GPA that might come from such bids being handed out?

Black History Month Heroes includes U.N. Jefferson from Revenge of the Nerds, a man whose steely gaze intimidated an entire white football team and helped usher in a peaceful nirvana of nerds and Black people coexisting together.

This ceremonial act of embarrassing the all-white football team at Adams College forever destroyed the idea of white people as cool. 

Watch the scene where the nerds get a meeting with U.N. Jefferson here at Hulu.



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