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.
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.“Sisko and Bashir
“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.”
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.
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:
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
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.
I haven’t written on here in such a long time. Honestly, I haven’t been sure that my input was needed. There are so many black geek/blerd blogs out there now and so much energy about afrofuturism that I haven’t been sure what my unique contribution could/should be. But, we still out here, y’all!
Also, it seems like all of these blogs are getting sneak peeks of new shows and products. How does one get that kind of access if you don’t live in LA or near where the shows are being filmed? Hit me up if you know.
When I logged in, I saw all of your messages. I am so grateful! Shout out to all the spammers who post who post the most random of things. How do y’all even find this blog? LOL
I am planning to keep it light at first. There’s so much new media out there; there are so many black creators who are getting some shine these days; black geekdom has gained wide accepted. We went from begging for representation and having to be happy with pittances to being everywhere now! We still have a ways to go on overcoming tropes and stereotypes, but we are making so much progress, y’all! I am so happy!
That said, it seems we have reached an inflection point. As much as Blackness is being celebrated, black bodies are still being treated as threats; we are still dying earlier from treatable and preventable diseases; our mothers and babies are dying due to health inequities; and wealth inequality is reaching dangerous levels. We’re going to talk about these things here too. I wasn’t joking about Black rights in space.
Oh, and lastly, shouts to everyone who posted my little Vulcan avatar. It tickles me every time I see it! My web design skills are seriously lacking, so I love that y’all find value in it.
Much love to all of you! Stay healthy, stay strong!
Boy, the hits just keep coming, don’t they? We’ve lots a lot of good ones over the last year, but this loss feels more personal. I haven’t posted in a while, but this passing deserved a post. James Avery was one of the GOATs in the acting game, of all races. Most of us knew and loved him as Uncle Phil on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but us Trekkies knew he was also Captain K’Vagh on Star Trek Enterprise. Even fewer people know that he auditioned against Michael Dorn for the role of Worf in TNG (Stop for a sec: Can you imagine?)
We’ve lost one of the greats, everyone. Nearly everyone’s favorite TV dad and an actor that gave 100% to every role he took. He passed on today after suffering complications from heart surgery earlier this month; he was 68.
Beware, a Klingon Warrior is about to arrive!
Truth, y’all are going to have to follow me on this one. Star Trek and Wu Tang go back like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I would bet you $20 that any black trekkie you meet is also a Wu Tang fan. And, if you asked them to explain why, they couldn’t. Why? Because Wu Tang is for the children (RIP ODB)! There’s an other-ness, slightly esoteric, to enjoying both and, as such, you earn a certain geek cred when you bring them up. Truth, I’ve been waiting to find the guy who likes both on his own and, when I do, we’ll probably hit Vegas. I hear they do Klingon weddings at a little chapel out there.
Anyways, this brings me to Drake. It started with Macklemore mentioning Wu in a song, all good, white boy can rap. But, then, Drake comes out with “Wu Tang Forever” and my brow instantly furrowed. I like Drake, but he’s not exactly known for spitting hot fire, right? Exactly. It’s a song out of my nightmares. How did he even get the “It’s Yours” sample cleared? Rza, WTF??? The song is about creeping with a girl who already has a man and Drake is SINGING! Don’t use the Wu to prove you’re cool. I fully expect there will be some Star Trek name drops soon enough.
I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Am I wrong?
All Trekkies who watched the Borg Queen’s torment/seduction of Data in First Contact will appreciate this.
To jog your memory (from IMDB):
[a Borg scratches Data’s flesh arm]
Lieutenant Commander Data: Ah!
Borg Queen: Is it becoming clear to you yet? Look at yourself, standing there, cradling the new flesh I’ve given you. If it means nothing to you, why protect it?
Lieutenant Commander Data: I… I am simply imitating the behavior of humans.
Borg Queen: You’re becoming more human all the time, Data; now you’re learning how to lie.
Lieutenant Commander Data: My programming was not designed to process these sensations.
Borg Queen: Then tear the skin from your limb as you would a defective circuit.
Borg Queen: Go ahead, Data! We won’t stop you!
[Data forces himself to try to tear off the skin]
Borg Queen: Do it! Don’t be tempted by flesh!
[Data relents and leaves the skin alone]
Borg Queen: Are you familiar with physical forms of pleasure?
Lieutenant Commander Data: If you are referring to sexuality, I am… fully functional, programmed in… multiple techniques.
Borg Queen: How long since you’ve used them?
Lieutenant Commander Data: Eight years, seven months, sixteen days, four minutes, twenty-two…
Borg Queen: Far too long.
[they kiss passionately]
P.S. I still have no understanding of the Gotye video concept. Why was he painted like that?
Y’all seemed to enjoy the Miguel’s an Alien post, so I’m thinking of regularly expanding upon that by highlighting other black folk who fit the bill. They, of course, aren’t actually aliens (that we know of), but some of their shenanigans deserve a long side-eye stare.
The thing is when you have special powers, it’s just so hard to stay in line.
Any suggestions for whom to highlight?
I’m not sure that we’ve talked about Voyager on this blog yet, but my favorite series is a constant toss up between TNG and Voyager. I really liked Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway despite the critiques of her style (and, her interview in “Captains”). Below, is a short clip showing the two actresses who were competing for the role. Mulgrew brought so much gravity and charisma (and a ‘I’ve been smoking and drankin’ since before you were born-voice’) to it that it is surprising that the other actress was even considered. Peep it.
See, this is why he’s my favorite captain:
And, shouts to Lemonsweetie for rocking an awesome Trill costume.