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Fountain pen
violachic wrote in startrek
I am curious if the Race Fail '09 thing has made anybody here look at Star Trek (or any other of your favorite Sci Fi TV shows/movies) a little differently? Or, rather, has it/how has it altered/cemented your views?

To be clear, I am not interested in replaying the debate on this thread- I am asking for genuine feedback.

For myself, and not even grazing the surface of my thoughts, I have always seen the Star Trek universe as imperfect, but the best thing I could find. I am impressed at the insights the writers and directors have on social commentary, but am often frustrated that they don't go as far as I think they could have gone.

Anyway- thoughts?

Edit: Sorry to assume everybody had been exposed to it. Explanation (well, a couple of links that help with summary of explanation) in response to first comment. I know a lot of people may not know/care, but I figured there would be some overlap.

UPDATE: If you have questions about whether or not something you have said, done, or written is racist, or don't understand why everybody seems to be attacking you, and have questions, racism_101 is a great place to start.

what's the race fail of '09?

That's what I was wondering.

First off, it seems to me that Gene Roddenberry felt that America's race problem was that Whites wouldn't let people of color (POC) assimilate into Whiteness. He, like many Whites then and now, assumed that POC wanted to be White, and that bad race relations were due to White folks not allowing us to be. So his perfect universe was that all people now got to be White. That theme was taken into TNG as well. The idea that POC have identities of our own that may or may not be in part or in toto informed by Whiteness didn't seem to occur to Gene or his writers. At best they seemed to have a very cursory and stereotypic view of cultures of color (COC)--see that horrid first year TNG ep with the Black people looking like the bastard spawn of Coming To America and Solid Gold dancers with some Aladdin thrown in.

I would have loved to see more backstory on the characters of color (CoC) in TNG. All we knew of Geordi was that he was blind, yet we got a lowdown of a Betazoid wedding ceremony and the Klingon Rite of Acension. Human COC were treated as best as interesting artifacts if they were mentioned at all. That changed a bit with DS9 with Sisko actually having a culture featured on the show and not just being Black decoration. Avery Brooks probably had a lot to do with that happening. I don't see the writers having a clue.


Although towards the end of DS9 it seemed like poor Sisko was completely ignored. My friends and I had a running joke about how he was used as set decoration, in the corner of the room with the plants and the indirect lighting. Sigh.

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i kind of got the impression that having Tuvok played by a POC was a nod to diversity, like saying "look, Vulcans have different color skins too, not all non-human species are homogenous".

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Trek would look a HELLA lot different if more PoC, women, older, LGBT folk were involved in the writing and production. But would the Western public (particularly the American public) have bought it?

Then... no they wouldn't. Now, yes I think they would. It's progress and I think it's wonderful.

Again.. 21st century eyes.

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I'm curious what prompted this post to this specific community?

Or if, because it appears to be a massive panfandom thing, you've crossposted it, eg. to Supernatural/Firefly/Stargate/Lost/Heroes/X-Men/PotC/insert fandom comms?

Um, I'm not a member of any of those comms. It was prompted because I hadn't seen any discussion of it previously on this board.

re-posting this because it sums up everything

Honestly I think Star Trek among many other things helped me to think differently and come to love that all things were possible in love. Race, color, gender, did not ultimately matter.

I grew up with it. It taught me. I think people see things the way they want to, maybe myself included but I tend to look on all the positive things Star Trek did for ALL people. Why separate it into groups? It seems to me everyone, every race has played just about every role at some time or another. PoC's loved races, species and genders of all types just as much as any whites.. (poNc?..whatever). The diversity was everywhere and OVER TIME it has evolved and I believe will continue to. Remember this while being a wonderful vision of what CAN BE was also a TV show(s) that had ratings and audiences of different time periods that were more acceptable of certain things. It's sad but true. We're looking back at this from 21st century eyes. It will not look right to us.

SO that being said. Let's stop the arguing and pointing of fingers and look forward to the future. To me that's the true vision of Star Trek. Looking to the future, evolving, changing, growing.

Amen. :p

Re: re-posting this because it sums up everything

You know, I really don't think that looking to the future without a look at the past is the vision of Star Trek. The danger of failing to understand the past and learn from it was a strong theme in many episodes. Simply moving on is a privilege of those who see representation of themselves in the past.

And the importance of talking about differences and learning from another's point of view was another theme. That is why one of my favorite episodes is the TNG episode where they encounter an alien race their translators can't simply adapt to because they have such a different way of communicating their reality. Picard succeeds because he doesn't just say, oh these people are so weird let's just forget it and move on. He has to work hard to understand them on their terms. If you want to learn a lesson from Trek, that's a good one.

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wondering that myself. personally, i'm guessing it's because they were getting too close to flaming and personal attacks. it's a pity because i'd like to respond to some of them. my vote goes to unfreezing.

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What I find in racefail 09 (my limited knowledge of it, anyway) that I also find in Trek fandom is a failure of non-PoC fans to achieve any real empathy. Fans of color are obviously frustrated with a genre that believes itself to be more enlightened than society at large, but which rarely goes beyond putting darker faces on the TV screen (or books or movies). They've been telling fandom at large that the PoC that they see in Trek just don't reflect the reality they know, and we should be listening. Instead, they get lectured by white fans about how wrong they are, and how really this is all very progressive and their perceptions are obviously faulty -- by people who seem remarkably unaware of their own white privilege.

So, for example, fans of color tend to notice that in ST, "good guy" PoC are cultural descendants of European/American Western culture, while often seemingly "primitive" alien cultures whose people have less understanding or "civilization" than the Federation also happen to bear clear non-white cultural markers. Why this is bothersome seems to elude many white fans.

As to the argument that Gene Roddenberry did the best he could on the subject of race given the times, I'd have to disagree. I admire the man greatly for being aware of the subject at all. But his choices do reflect a world view that holds homogeneity to be the answer to humanity's problems. The classic example would be the TOS episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," which is the original series' most direct commentary on the subject of race. The whole point of it is that all people are really exactly the same; that we are indistinguishable but for an accident of a physical feature. There's a total failure to address issues like cultural tolerance, cultural appropriation, and anything else that might have to acknowledge complexity. I think the simplistic understanding of racism reflected in that episode pervades the Star Trek universe and lasts well into subsequent series. Even as that situation improves, it's interesting to note that, when they finally create a character whose non-white American/European culture is a defining characteristic, he's Native American -- jumping on a popular trend to idealize an oppressed culture that very few of us have ever even encountered in the flesh. In that sense, ST is much like Disney, addressing the issue of over-whiteness by introducing culturally specific characters from what are seen as inoffensive, less-problematic non-white cultures: Native Americans and Asians, for example.

There's a total failure to address issues like cultural tolerance, cultural appropriation, and anything else that might have to acknowledge complexity.

What's more, Star Trek presents a really weird, backward message on "cultural appropriation" -- in that the biggest sin a Federation officer could ever commit is to give advanced technology to the "primitives."

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I am in agreement with witchsistah, though it's an opinion I've had all along and has not changed because of any recent debate. Particularly with regard to Laforge.

Geordi Laforge always stuck me as a half-drawn, hodge-podge sort of character with little thought given to creating any psychological depth. His role is to shoulder all the tokenist burdens while the real meat is given to the other characters. And I notice he gets knocked back by white chicks an awful lot. (Tasha Yar, whose background seems to consist of "being raped as a young girl and predatorily sexual as a result" is not much better, but that's off topic. She's one of the white chicks who knocks Geordi back, too.)

Julian Bashir was a more powerful non-white character though, and I think the homoerotic vibe between himself and O'Brien particularly intriguing - the bit where O'Brien admitted he liked Bashir's company more than Keiko's was illuminating!

But yeah, the whites (Spiner, Auberjounois) tend to play the "complex misfits" who get all the best roles. Is that a white thing, or just bog-standard racism? I don't know, but I do know Geordi does not satisfy!

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I want to continue the hair discussion.

Description of a Jamaican-American woman serving in Iraq: "Her hair is neatly braided into cornrows and tied at the nape of her neck."

If braids and cornrows are military-acceptable now, they certainly will be hundreds of years from now.

Also, the idea that straight hair in a ponytail, updo, or a bob is more military-professional than locks or afros is very, very silly. People may have messed-up attitudes about hair now, but Star Trek is about the future. That nonsense will be long gone.

Yeah, and: Ensign Ro and the earring. Enuff said!

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I just finished reading EVERY SINGLE COMMENT on this thread, and I can't believe how petty EVERYONE is being.

Some people have problems with how Persons of Colour (whatever that shade may be) have been portrayed in Trek. I understand that. I wish it were much better.

Maybe being Canadian gives me a different view on things, I dunno. Prejudice in any way is very difficult for me to understand. People are people to me, be they black, brown, yellow, white, green, purple or blue. I see each person as an individual, not as a race/colour/creed/whatever.

What I do know is that discussion on this topic can very easily become inflamatory in all directions, and I really don't want to be caught in a firestorm on a community that's meant to be positive (for the most part) and a pathway towards better understanding of all creatures, regardless of what their dimorphic proportions might be.

Please don't take this in any way other than how it's meant, as someone trying to be totally neutral to all sides.

I'm not politically involved or in the anti-racist movement myself and I don't get involved in that at all - but I thought it was unfair and discourteous to say to witchsistah "your logic is flawed and your argument seems, frankly, whiny. No personal disrespect is meant here."

So (a) he insults her (b) he tells her he is not insulting her (which is even worse) and then (c) worst of all he completely ignores the point she is making, which was something interesting and very much worth talking about.

And ETA, passively-aggressively called her a liar by way of an icon.

I thought that was a bit off, myself.

Edited at 2009-03-13 11:49 pm (UTC)

Since all the replies are frozen towards the beginning, i just wanted to say thanks for the summary on the race fail.

....slowly backs away....

Yeah, I'm not sure why the original posts on RaceFail summaries were frozen, as there weren't flames there -- except that absurdhero apparently wants to squelch all discussions of race.

It has made me again wonder, if the Trek writers were supposed to be so wonderfully visionary and liberal and sparkly and stuff, and our future so glorious and advanced, why there were never any overt portrayals of GLBT characters on any of the series, or any discussion of homosexuality or homophobia?

The one where Jadzia tries to get together with her now-female ex doesn't really count, in spite of the controversy it caused, and all O'Brien/Bashir or Garak subtleties aside.

Now, granted, up until even TNG's first seasons there really weren't many openly gay characters on American TV at all (that I know of, at any rate), although by that point it was hardly unprecedented, but at least by the end of DS9 and beginning of Voyager, there certainly were beginning to be. Racism and sexism were both examined, particularly in DS9, but never homophobia. Why is that? Didn't Roddenberry, at one point, say there would be a gay character in TNG? In all of the pairings we've seen on the shows, between regulars or guest starts or even among extras, there has never been an openly gay couple.

I find it odd and saddening that Trek, pioneering in so many things, has ignored this part of humanity.

Here's an interesting list of openly gay characters on American television that covers the period of TNG; and I do agree with you that the lack of queer characters in Star Trek has been an embarrassment for a supposedly "progressive" show in other regards.

I am going to here by apologize to everyone. I apologize to kynn , witchsistah, and masteradept as well as anyone else I offended.

I did not mean to, and I truly hope you can understand that. I admit I was angry and *I* felt offended because I know what kind of person I am, and I know how I feel and act. I think things got misconstrued on the internet as is common. I did not see what I said as such, but maybe we all have things to learn still.

So again. I am apologizing here. I wish no ill will to you all and I hope your community is everything you want it to be.

I know I am better than petty bickering and I would like to think you are all as well. I hope out future interactions go better than this one did.

I'm posting this in the other thread as well.

I'm one of the people you offended.

It's clear that you were angry and offended. Things, though, may not have gotten misconstrued.

Please read this. And this.

Your behavior in this thread is an excellent example of racefail. :/