Kirking Out

by Latoya Peterson

So, this week, I made a shocking discovery: my boyfriend is a trekkie!

I have no idea how we went this long without exposing his latent nerdiness, but here I am watching Star Trek: First Contact and preparing to check out John Cho tomorrow.

In the meantime, he’s some race-related Trekkie goodness from the wilds of the interwebs:

Hyphen Magazine published Race to Space: Asian Americans, stereotypes in Star Trek’s Final Frontier:

“It meant a lot to me seeing George (Takei) on television,” Cho says. “It was like, ‘look at this guy who isn’t wearing a cone-shaped hat’ and it was stunning. He was just alone on television as an Asian American. So when this project came along, I was very keen on doing it because it was a legacy I really wanted to be a part of.” (Read a full interview with Cho in the Film section.)

Takei was one of the few Asian Americans with a starring role on TV when he played Sulu, helmsman of the Enterprise, in the first Star Trek series and in six movies.

“As a fan but also as a scholar of Asian American pop culture, I’ve always been impressed with the Star Trek franchise and its efforts toward inclusion,” says Phil Yu, a self-professed Trekkie who also blogs as Angry Asian Man ( and is a web producer for Yahoo Movies. “It presents a utopian view of future and has always included Asians on the ship.” […]

“There are serious issues of racism, in an academic sense, and you can see how it plays out in how Asian men, black men and Asian women are represented,” says Daniel Bernardi, author of Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future. “Yes, you put some people of color on the show. Now that’s good, but how did you use them and to what end?” […]

Bernardi cites an episode of TOS in particular, “The Naked Time,” in which an alien virus infects the Enterprise crew, causing them to act out their inhibitions. In one of his most celebrated scenes, Sulu goes on a shirtless rampage, molesting Uhura and challenging all comers with a fencing sword. “That’s Star Trek revealing itself,” Bernardi says. “That’s what they think Sulu is inside, a threat to women and wild beast that needs to be tamed.”

Over on Salon, Jeff Greenwald presents the case that Obama is Spock:

Obama, Jenkins points out, positioned himself in the primaries as a man “at home with both blacks and whites, someone whose mixed racial background has forced him to become a cultural translator.” In this sense Obama even surpasses Spock, whose struggle to reconcile his half-human, half-Vulcan genes is a continual source of inner conflict. In one episode, the entire Enterprise crew (except for Kirk) is infected by alien spores that turn them into doe-eyed flower children. The “cure” is anger — thus Kirk is forced to provoke his first officer to rage. He succeeds, spectacularly, by insulting Spock’s racial pedigree: “All right, you mutinous half-breed! You’re an overgrown jackrabbit! An elf, with a hyperactive thyroid! A simpering, devil-eared freak whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia!”

Confronted with a similar insult, Barack Obama would probably just laugh. “The Vulcan side of Obama, the core of his character, hasn’t changed [since the election],” Jenkins believes. “He’s tough, he’s cool and he’s rational.” His appeal stems from the self-aware integration of all aspects of his personality: black and white, wonk and poet, athlete and aesthete.

Like Spock, part of what makes Obama so appealing is the fact that although he’s an outsider — “proudly alien,” as Leonard Nimoy once put it — he uses that distance to cultivate a sense of perspective. And while we’re drawn to Spock’s exotic traits — the pointy ears, green blood and weird mating rituals — we take comfort in his soothing baritone, prominent nose and ordinary teeth.

And some fun facts about Nichelle Nichols (Uhrura) via Wiki:

It was in Star Trek that Nichols gained popular recognition by being one of the first black women featured in a major television series not playing a servant; her prominent supporting role as a female black bridge officer was unprecedented. During the first year of the series, Nichols was tempted to leave the show, as she felt her role lacked significance; however, a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed her mind. Though specifics of the conversation vary, in generalities she has reported that Dr. King personally encouraged her to stay on the show, telling her that he was a big fan of the series and told her she “could not give up” since she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country.[2] It is also often reported that Dr. King added that “Once that door is opened by someone, no one else can close it again.”

Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison has cited Nichols’s role of Lt. Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to become an astronaut and Whoopi Goldberg has also spoken of Nichols’s influence.[citation needed] Goldberg herself eventually landed a recurring role in Star Trek: The Next Generation[3] as Guinan, while Jemison appeared in an episode of the series.

In her role as Lt. Uhura, Nichols famously kissed Canadian actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the 1968 Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. This is often referred to as the first interracial kiss on US television, however that milestone actually took place when Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nancy Sinatra kissed briefly on the variety program Movin’ With Nancy in December 1967. It wasn’t even the first interracial kiss on Star Trek, as Shatner had kissed an alien played by Vietnamese-French actress France Nuyen in the episode Elaan of Troyius, which was screened earlier that season.

Nevertheless, the scene provoked protest and was seen as groundbreaking, even though the kiss was portrayed as having been forced by alien mind control. Despite a smattering of protest, the majority of the feedback of the incident was positive.[citation needed] In her 1994 autobiography, Beyond Uhura, Star Trek and Other Memories page 197, Nichols cites a letter from one white Southerner who wrote: “I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain’t gonna fight it.” During the Comedy Central roast of Shatner on August 20, 2006, she referred to the incident and said, “Let’s make TV history again … and you can kiss my black ass!”

Now, here’s my question: Did anyone ever figure out how Uhara got her hair done in the 23th century? Is there some fly black girl hair device that keeps it fresh in space? I mean, they have a replicator and all…

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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