Black Trekkie Gets Political

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USA! USA! USA!

Aw hell, here we go…Star Trek has always been political, so no need to shy away from discussing politics here. Did you watch President Joe Biden’s April 28, 2021 address to Congress? I hope you did because this speech felt like we might be on the precipice of a cultural shift. There was direct discussion of the need for reform and progress on human rights, racial justice, gender equity, LGBTQ protections, universal safety net programs for families, violence against women, migration, and gun safety. This past year woke all of us up that living lives of quiet desperation is an inadequate existence and that we have to help one another. More importantly, the past year has shown that government, by and for the people, has a role to play in remediating so many of these issues. It was a truly remarkable speech. I am cautiously optimistic that we may make significant progress on these issues in the next few years.

Credit: IMDB

In the Star Trek context, perhaps the best episode that we can look to is DS9’s Past Tense. In the episode, Sisko, Bashir, and Jadzia beam down to San Francisco to attend a Starfleet conference, but a transporter malfunction has them ending up on Earth in 2024, 300 years in the past. See where I’m going? Things are bad. Earth is shown to have all the crimes of desperation, frequent petty crime, riots, and massive camps for people experiencing homelessness called Sanctuary Districts. Sisko and Bashir were shuttled into one Sanctuary District where they saw poverty unlike anything they had ever seen or heard of outside of the history books. Just for being homeless, poor, mentally ill and/or undocumented, they were treated like criminals. Sounds familiar, right?

By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.
Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?
No, people with criminal records weren’t allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.
Then what did they do to deserve this?
Nothing. They’re just people without jobs or places to live.
So they get put in here?
Welcome to the 21st Century, Doctor.

Sisko and Bashir

Sure enough, there has been an overcrowded skid row/tent city/homeless encampment in every major city in the United States. After years of decline, homelessness was on the rise before the pandemic, but was surely exacerbated by the rampant job loss related to the economic disruption. Sanctuary Districts were developed at some point to warehouse people and keep them out of sight. Notably, even the well-meaning social worker attempting to help Sisko and Bashir uses derogatory terms to refer to them. In retrospect, it is a particularly poignant moment because she is a Black woman acting as a benevolent gatekeeper, emblematic of the systemic -isms that can be so insidious, hard to identify, and hard to change. She even tells them to watch out for District Security, so it appears police brutality was a thing there too. She has the smug confidence that comes with thinking she’s helping, but not the recognition that she is actually part of the problem.

“There’s no need for him to live like that…

It’s not that they don’t give a damn, they’ve just given up. The social problems they face seem too enormous to deal with.”

Sisko to Bashir

“Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care–that’s really hard to understand.

They’ll remember. It will take some time and it won’t be easy, but, eventually, people in this century will remember how to care.”

Sisko and Bashir

There is an old saying that things are darkest before the Dawn. The 2020s have been pretty dark so far, in real life and the Star Trek Universe. How Star Trek writers could have predicted things are happening now with such precision is pretty eerie; this episode aired 26 years ago. It’s so on the nose. I haven’t even mentioned the unique and subtle demonstration of racism in the episode. Jadzia, a white-passing actual alien, is given aid and treated like the toast of society while Sisko and Bashir, two black and brown American citizens, are treated immediately like criminals. That could be a whole post in itself.

I don’t have to recount all of the terrible things that have happened in the past few years. Our democracy has been tested, voting rights being challenged, unimaginable economic insecurity, immigrant children in cages, and widespread disease and rationing of access to healthcare. And most relevant to this episode, mass riots because people have been isolated to the point that they feel they have no other choice than to overturn the system violently. Again, sounds familiar?

So, are you feeling optimistic after the speech? If you find comfort in the post-scarcity ideas idealized in Star Trek, let’s work towards it. Seems like we’ve got momentum.

P.S. This might be my new favorite DS9 episode. I didn’t appreciate it until now.

Falcon and the Winter Soldier Finale: Did they stick the landing?

Credit: Disney Plus

You know how sometimes you eat until you’re full, yet you’re still craving that something missing? That’s how I felt about the finale of Falcon and The Winter Soldier. This series was an origin story to ease us into seeing The Falcon, a black man, as the new Captain America. Falcon tried to walk away from the mantle after it was thrust upon him by Steve Rogers. In the process of the buddy cop redemption of Bucky, Sam Wilson came to learn the background behind the super soldier serum and wrestled with what was needed from him in the post-Blip era. In the end, he stepped up to the shield and accepted the conflict-filled idea of a black man carrying it.

The writers tried to do a lot– address racial justice, resettlement, wealth inequality, mental health, atonement, and the use and maltreatment of the military in six episodes. The finale ended up feeling rushed and anemic. Overall, I would give it an 7.5/10. But, seeing Isaiah Bradley properly honored for the injustices done to him makes up for any deficiencies in the rest of the story. It was almost cathartic to see him no longer be denied and in the shadows. Can we please get a a one-shot of the fight between Isaiah Bradley and Bucky? Please.

Seeing how many racists went running on the internet during every episode of this show, this miniseries was as much to make the fans comfortable with Sam as Captain America as anything else Marvel hoped to accomplish. Perhaps in Phase 4 of the MCU, we will not have to deal with people complaining about how they just can’t see anyone other than Steve Rogers as Captain America.

The series also set up the Young Avengers and, perhaps, the Thunderbolts. We’ll see if they show up in Phase 4. It clearly set up John Walker as US Agent, so we can expect to see him again. But, what about the other Flag Smashers? Are we sure Karli Morgenthau is dead? And, what of the Flag Smasher in the river at the end? Seems like that could be the start of the next Captain America movie.

Sam read the GRU’s leadership for filth for not questioning why the Flag Smashers had gained so much sympathy around the world. Given climate change, food and water insecurity, and growing wealth inequality, we all need to be giving thought to what the world looks like when borders and existing power structures are challenged. Can we be “One World, One People”, or are those only the musings of a misguided teenager?

As I said before, Marvel did well with this series. The whole Flag Smashers plot both took up too much bandwidth yet was inadequately serviced, but this was more about Sam’s journey. Though there was a lot of build up to Sharon as Power Broker, she felt pointless in the end. I just don’t buy her as a morally gray character. Aunt Peggy would be so disappointed. But, yo, she can fight and I am excited to see more of her and of Madripoor. Speaking of Madripoor, why does Marvel seem to have a singular view of Asian cultures??? Do they all have to be cyberpunk speedruns? The scenes in Black Panther wasn’t the best and neither were those in Madripoor. The only series that hasn’t had a ton of complaints was Daredevil and I am not even sure that I just didn’t see them. I am holding out a bit of hope that they do better with Shang-chi and The Ten Rings. I hope Marvel is listening to the fans.

*fingers crossed*

Update: When did the phrase”Kirk Out” enter the Black lexicon?

One of my most visited posts is about the origins of the idiom “Kirk Out”. These days, it generally means extreme, maniacal anger, but perhaps it didn’t start out that way. A user named Raoul graced my page and left a comment stating that Bootsy Collins had said it on his song “Ah… The Name is Bootsy, Baby!” The album came out in 1977 and reached number one on Billboard’s Top RnB/Soul albums chart. Shout out to Raoul for hyping me to this! He posited that Kirk Out may have just meant to end a phone call. Given how Captain Kirk used it, this is entirely plausible! Is this the answer for how it entered AAVE (African American Vernacular English)?

Bootsy has been on the afrofuturist tip forever, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he is a Trekkie (and one of the best bassists to ever do it.) Much love to Bootsy! I probably need to a post about the entire Funkadelic era at some point. Listen for yourselves below:

Youtube: Warner Bros.

Superman and Lois: Small Town Values with Some Butt-kicking Action So Far

First, Spoiler Alert if you haven’t been watching so far. Lex Luthor is Black. I must admit that I got excited when I saw him. We’ve only seen him once so far, but we know he is Black, wealthy, technologically advanced, and angry. I tried to get into the show Krypton and just couldn’t do it, but Superman and Lois treads a more familiar path, and perhaps pathos. How can one feel pity for a superman? When Superman is trying to eek out a normal existence as a husband and a parent while also trying to be available to save the world at a moment’s notice. Being the world’s savior is the life that he chose, but he couldn’t possibly have imagined all of the consequences that would come along with it. And, how does one prioritize being a family man at moments when the world also needs you.

So far, these themes are being explored in Superman and Lois on The CW. CW sci-fi shows are very hit or miss, but they seem to be taking their time with world-building. Clark Kent is the father of twins, one struggling with mental health issues, and husband to Lois Lane. Lois Lane is as she always is- a strong, trail-blazing reporter. However, they are having trouble connecting as a family and, due to the death of Martha Kent and the risk of losing the farm, end up moving back to Smallville. Also as usual, Superman wrestles with the themes of success and superiority based on natural ability vs. meritocracy and what that means for society as a whole.

Thus far, Lex Luthor is not the main villain of the show, which is good because it leaves the viewer guessing. I am looking forward to seeing if they can flesh out Lex Luthor’s character and motivations, and particularly, whether his Blackness will play any role in his everfresh beef with Superman. We shall see.

Lower Decks Season 2 Trailer

Credit: Paramount Plus

This has to be the most unexpected, sleeper hit of all of the Star Treks. Nobody would have thought we needed another animated series, but this is everything! So many deep cuts that appeal to hardcore Trekkies and enjoyable for even the casual viewer. Seriously, no Star Trek has ever had a solid first season. Ever. Until now. After the newest Star Trek movies, Discovery, and Picard started off rocky as hell, many were questioning whether we could have another Trek that hit the right balance of seriousness and camp. Lower Decks won everyone over by the end of the season and I expect great things for Season 2!

Side note, why/how is Johnathan Frakes so darn good at directing? Can we just make him a show runner with his own series?

Lots of Black characters in this show: A Black captain, a Black lead character, a Black admiral, and a Black engineer so far. And, an Orion!

Can’t wait for August 12th on Paramount +.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Do Viewers Realize that Karli Morgenthau is Black?

Credit:@whereisthebuzztv

Everyone is enjoying The Falcon & Winter Soldier, right? The show has stimulated some good awareness of the atrocities committed against Black people (note, everything is not about the Tuskegee experiment.) Once one tragedy enters the public awareness, we have a tendency to run it into the ground. We still need to have a larger, deeper conversation about the treatment and atrocities committed against Black soldiers, which is really the lesson of the story of Isaiah Bradley. Black soldiers, still in the midst of the inhumane treatment during the Jim Crow era, were used, abused, and treated like cannon fodder in pursuit of the country’s anti-imperialist conflicts, while treating Black soldiers little better than beasts of burden. Many were left broken with little recompense and recognition for their monumental sacrifices. Carl Lumbly has done a superb job portraying the pain and resignation of a man who had his hope crushed and, then, turned in on itself. Resulting in him just trying to eek out the small, peaceful life of someone who just desires to be left alone. Everything was taken from him.

While we have been exploring and analyzing the racial context and messages in The Falcon and Winter Soldier, I haven’t seen anyone address Karli Morgenthau’s blackness/biracialness. On the innanets, people seem to really dislike the character and struggle to follow the Flag Smashers’ logic. Marvel Studios, to its credit, has built a fascinatingly diverse cast with chemistry that doesn’t feel forced in any way. Karli’s race has not been asserted in the show and I have to wonder how many viewers even realize that she is of Black/African descent. I knew she was Black right away, as I will assume most Black viewers did. We come in infinite combinations and most of us learn from a young age to identify each other in the most subtle ways. Interestingly, in the television show, Karli was intentionally gender-swapped and de-aged from the comics by the showrunners to provide more representation for young women.

The Flag Smashers represent an issue that doesn’t receive attention in the United States very often. Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are escaping crime, armed conflict, coups, food insecurity, and other threats to their survivals in their own countries, different than refugees. The most similar experience we have had in the United States is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the case of the Blip, all governmental and civil society infrastructure was disrupted for 5 years. When things came back, people understandably started to rebuild things as they had been, old power and wealth structures. Some of those who had been left behind didn’t want to go back to the old ways, instead they thought things were better during the Blip. In the show, the Patch Act is in the process of being voted on, which would return all of the stateless to their previous countries, which many did not want nor did the camps have the capacity to handle. The Flag Smashers were attempting to stop it, by violent means if necessary, and would perhaps be appropriately described as anarcho-terrorists.

Given that Karli’s racial identity hasn’t been addressed in the show, but assuming that she is mixed race from the UK as the actor is, it stands to wonder whether there is another story to be told. Is there an expected allegiance between Sam and Karli because of their potentially similar experiences with discrimination? Does she hold back on harming him and his family because of familiarity? What does it mean to her to see a Black Captain America, especially given her experiences with imperialism and authoritarianism. Sam empathizes with her motivations, but not her tactics. He connected with her, but the conversation was cut short, unfortunately. He explores his shared experiences regarding Isaiah, but what about with Karli? Is he willing to end her life to stop her?

They chose Erin Kellyman to play this role for a reason. In Episode 4, her compatriot said that he didn’t think there could be another Captain America until he met her. As the old saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It didn’t resonate on the first watch, but looking at it through the dual lenses of race and gender, she was another Black Captain America. As Sam wrestled with John Walker, Bucky, and Isaiah Bradley, it just feels like the writers left something on the table. But, in six episodes, that would have been asking a lot.

Overall, the writers have knocked it out of the park so far. You know you dun gud when racist fans are mad and calling you SJWs all over the internet, as if social justice hasn’t been at the core of Marvel since the beginning. Fun fact, over half of the series’ writing staff are Black.

So, what say say you? Does her background matter? Do you want to know more about Karli and the rest of the Flag Smashers? Do you empathize with their goals?

One more episode left. The finale is April 23, 2021 at 3:01AM EST. Are you staying up to watch?

P.S.

In a March 18, 2021 Deadline interview between Anthony D’Alessandro and Malcolm Spellman, Malcolm said this:

Can you tell us about the specific details of the pitch you fumbled?
I’ll tell you at the end of the season. I really want somebody to get Kevin to talk about the original run because it was so on point. It was so on point it was like ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that.’

WTheck does this mean??? Are we going to get the Spellman cut at some point???

Black to the Future: Justice for George Floyd

I hope I never need to write a post like this again….but, it is extremely likely that I will. My heart is heavy. It aches for all of the lives lost due to individual and systemic racism and bigotry, but what I want to highlight in this post is xenophobia. Sometimes, I worry that the words racism and bigotry have run the euphemism treadmill to become so trite and cliche that we have forgotten the pain and the power behind them. So, let’s turn to a less oft-used, elegant, and very much applicable term: xenophobia. Xenophobia is defined as the fear and hatred of strangers and foreigners or of anything that is strange and foreign. We hear the term more frequently used in conversations about immigration and human rights and it is perfectly appropriate here.

Those of us who are of like-minds dream of a future where black skin does not engender fear and hatred… just by existing. We are human and, regardless of how we arrived where we reside, we are here and we belong. George Floyd, whatever failings he may have had, was an American. Yet, despite being an American citizen, throughout his life he was treated as a stranger, never quite belonging enough to be seen as “family” or even a neighbor. Part of “belonging” is not having to be perfect all the time, and being granted grace and mercy when our failings overwhelm us. Sometimes, you get to have a bad day. Too often, being black is living with the constant reminder that being our normal, imperfect selves can lead to our deaths.

Research confirms what the streets have been saying for years: White people think Black people are superhuman. They think we are magical. On the face of it, it sounds pretty cool. Who wouldn’t want to be Superman? But, being “super” creates fear among those who work within a system not designed to deal with those “seem” different. It is inherently dehumanizing, which allows use to lose our empathy. It creates this fantastical idea that a grown man in a position of authority can kneel on a black man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and that he shouldn’t die. “How dare he have the nerve to die on camera and cause us all these problems?” By his inhumane treatment of George Floyd, Derek Chauvin became a monster, plumbing the darkest depths of his soul, someone he probably didn’t recognize. Wrath is a sin.

Yet, this is bigger than Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved in George Floyd’s death. The system that they are a part of attempted to defend their irresponsible use of force and refusal to render aid until it was too late. George Floyd’s death was entirely preventable and unnecessary. When systems forget the human, the systems must be overhauled. Dismantled and rebuilt, if necessary. Empathy and ethics can and must be trained and demanded at every level of the justice system. We should all be demanding change, lest it be us in a situation one day.

When I mention Black rights in space, this is what I mean at core. The right to exist. The right to make mistakes and be appropriately punished for them, yet not end up dead. The right to be ordinary. We are not superhuman. We have to overcome the fear that has been built into the very psyche of the country, and likely the world. Ethical action cannot come from fear. Black people are humans. Black people are humans. Black people will be human on Mars too. What happens when actual aliens show up?

Things Black people can’t safely do (and white people, you better be careful doing them too):

  • Sleep in their beds
  • Walk home at night
  • Stop at a house to ask for help after a car wreck
  • Wait for their child at a bus stop
  • Go in their own house
  • Have a busted taillight
  • Act like a child when they are an actual child
  • Reach for their driver’s license after being told to show their driver’s license
  • Beat a racist’s a** after they were attacked for no reason
  • Have a cookout in a public park with grills
  • Walk their dog
  • Go for a jog
  • Cosplay as their favorite anime character
  • Pay with a $20 bill

We can be better; we have to be better. Black rights are human rights. This verdict is a step toward accountability, but it doesn’t feel like justice.

What What?! Worf is Coming Back to Star Trek!

Michael Dorn just tweeted this! Get hype, everyone! Can we also talk about how beautiful and well-preserved this man is?! Despite all those years of wearing Worf’s makeup that irritated his skin. His Black is not cracking!

Just got the news, being summoned back into action. Starfleet calls. #ad

Originally tweeted by Michael Dorn (@akaWorf) on April 19, 2021.

Credit: @akaworf Twitter

We don’t know what he will be doing yet, but it is about time the Trek stopped frontin’ on Michael Dorn’s skills. He’s been shopping a Klingon-focused Star Trek for about a decade to no avail. Maybe this is the beginning of his Renaissance. *fingers crossed*

From the looks of it, it appears that he will be Assistant Director of an episode. I seriously hope it is more than that. Let me know if you find out anything more about his role. I want to be first in line!

We need to give him his flowers while he’s still with us.

The Dora Milaje vs. John Walker aka Don’t Touch My Hair

Aka When They Try to Touch Your Hair. Get ’em, Ayo!

This scene spoke to my soul. How many times has someone invaded your personal space without permission? These “pointy sticks” are made of vibranium, Great Value Captain America. And, Bucky thinking his interceding would somehow stop the fight? Nope, you can catch these hands too, Buck. LOL

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened to me in a long time, but I still have shower moments when the memory of when I didn’t check someone for stroking my hair. It was in a professional context, so I was caught a little off balance. The act sent an actual shiver down my spine. I let the whole culture down by not saying something. I’m sorry y’all.

May we all bring this Solange energy into 2021.