Spock is Kind of a Magical Black Dude Without Actually Being Black

I've been watching the original Star Trek with William Shatner, Deforest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy and I've spent a lot of time wondering why is Bones such a dick to Spock, because he is. I think for him it kind of amounts to Bones being racist - or speciest - against all non-humans. But seeing how Spock is treated by the other characters, he gets more shit for being part Vulcan than Uhura gets for being black. The way the character talk about Spock is reminiscent of how mixed race black/white people would be referred to. 

Spock refers to himself more often as being Vulcan and and how he was raised like a Vulcan. Other characters react to his Vulcan-ness as a negative. Vulcans are critical of his humanity, which isn't visible and seems to be known to everyone everywhere. The humans on the Enterprise refer to his Vulcanity as a horrible negative, except for Kirk but bros. It makes me think of how in at least America if not other western cultures, if a white person and non-white person have a child the resulting mixed race child seems to more often being referred as being a member of the race that 'sullied' the white race. It's up there with the need to call black people 'black American' or 'African-American' and that white Americans are rarely defined as being anything other than American. It's not English-American or French-American, just American. Spock is often referred to as being just half Vulcan and half human and there's often a coda added if anyone says he may be just one. 

In this fashion It's easy to see him as being a "black dude" because what he is has to be known. It can't just be accepted that he exists and has some of each. Also, if he's ever insulted by humans they say 'Vulcan' as if it's a bad thing. Multiple episodes bring up how 'devil-like' his ears are and how evil he is or seems. Other aliens including the Vulcans, Romulans, and Klingons have brought up his human side as being the negative more often, but those species generally have a thing about disliking humans. 

But what makes him magical? The Vulcan talents. Mind-reading, mind-meld and the trained nerve-pinch. Spock has been able to survive toxins and has a moderately different biological make up but conveniently looks like a white dude. I personally add him to the magical-black-character trope because while he's not black he is often treated in a similar fashion to regular MBDs. He's wise even though he's young, he has a special way with animals (sometimes) but the regulated normal human characters treat him as an Other while relying on him to save them time and time again. Spock is relegated as a valuable character because of the services he can perform for the other characters (namely Kirk, McCoy and Scotty) unlike Uhura, Chekov and Sulu who are just accepted as 'normal' and their racial differences are never brought up as a negative. Chekov has Russia-pride up the wazu, but the other characters don't turn to him to figure something out because he's Russian. What he is isn't used as the basis to his function, unlike the MBD who is useful by existing in the narrative. 

And this brings me back to Bones being racist, because in EVERY situation that's emotional he tries to crack wise about Spock not being affected by is because he's Vulcan. Bones seeks to cut and hack at Spock at every opportunity, to dismiss him and then fight him decide that his 'emotionless' Vulcaness will lead to the collective team's downfall. Time and time again Spock calmly reminds them that he's part-human and ought to be treated like the rest, but also that he cares he just doens't express it. Spock takes shit and has the presence to dismiss it, forgive it and be the better character. He doggedly follows and chases Kirk, is fiercely loyal to him, and puts up with everything McCoy says with passive disinterest.

Sometimes it just seems like Spock was written as being subservient to everyone else just because he's different. But in the Star Trek universe, class is made up on levels of humanity (especially Caucasoid humanity in The Original Series), then through humanoid life forms and non-humanoid lifeforms (which there are minimal). It's like the black character being written into a movie and they're great at dancing, was possibly a thug as a youth, and is a star athlete (if they're male), but they have experience and wisdom to help the white character succeed. And he's the token character, he's the only alien consistently in the show.

I might be stretching this a little, but there are parallels to how Spock is treated and with how black characters in media are (but especially were) often treated. I did mention Uhura and Sulu, and it's interesting that they're the only consistent non-white humans, and once Chekov was added he went off on more expeditions than Sulu had or Uhura had and he was the newest crew addition. But in terms of being discriminated against, with Sulu and Uhura it's never because of their race, with Spock it's always because of his race.

Is it fair for me to be this critical of old media, in a way yes. I know there are more seasons and newer Star Treks that have greater racial diversity and less black-face, but seeing how a character is singled out as being Other because of their species can still happen. I've seen the two new movies and I did wonder why there were so few other aliens presented. I think I wrote somewhere that with Into Darkness, it's Spock, we see one Klingon for a moment, the dude that hangs out with Scotty, a tribble and I think there were one or two shoved into the background.  If this is supposed to be about and take place in a species-integrated future, where are the varieties, other than painting white chicks green? (Not really counting Khan because he's a race of super-humans from how ST:TOS described him - and he was just another white dude.) Tokenism can still happen and it happening with species and not race doesn't make it better.

Comic Talk: Black Lightning: Year One- Jen Van Meter & Cully Hamner

I knew nothing about Black Lightning before DC released an animation short featuring Black Lightning's daughters needing to go to school, and he's fighting something but needs to get home to get his girls off to school. I saw it and thought "DC's trying to develop a black hero? Fantastic!" and wanted to know more about him. 

I don't remember why I chose this book. I like the Year One concept because it introduces new readers to a world without the weight of decades of back story, and villains that stretch forever and bog everything down. They're usually a one off, contained narrative, you know stories will continue but you don't need to know anything to be able to enjoy what you're reading. They do the job, they tread familiar ground for established fans but are easy for new potential fans to get into. 

But what I like. I like that as a hero Black Lightning has a family. So many heroes are alone with so little to live for or a real thing to fight and protect. Superman focuses on Lois and the Daily Planet. Spider-man on Aunt May, Gwen or MJ, and the Daily Bugle. Batman is on his own and maybe Robin sometimes? Iron Man fights for Pepper, but so many heroes are single bachelors, or dating or married without families to care about.

 At his core, Jefferson Pierce is a family man. He has a loving mother, wife and daughter, a hard but caring sister, her kind of deadbeat husband. There are people who know who he is, what he's doing and they care just as much as he does. They understand he has a power that can be put to so much good and in this book they do as much as they can to help him and to not end up as targets of the wrath of the 100. 

I like that he's written not as a stereotype. He's a solid family man (currently, I guess a divorce happens after the second daughter is born, but he retains custody later on), educated an educator, and a successful athlete. He speaks proper English and not some insulting lesser English. He was and athlete and pushed himself because he knew no other way to deal with the electrical build up in his body. It's not explained in this book where his powers come from, according to wikipedia, in Year One he's a metahuman and he just does. In other continuities he has a device that creates the electrical energy. (I do judge a little because he's a black dude with electricity powers (were they just used as a way/excuse to 'light' dark skin in  shadows in comics?---nah)).  He proves himself to be a valuable and good person as a positive local role model as he, as Jefferson Pierce, works to fix the Metropolis Southside after it was attacked by The 100, a gang that had a crazy magic-villain leader. 

He comes into town as a positive role model, he's working to improve the lives of these people, partially because of person guilt of 'abandoning' the town but also because he wants better for his students than their high school prostitution or gang lifestyle. He wants to prove to them that they're worth the effort and the energy and that they can do something good with their lives.  

I like that when Clark Kent shows up to figure out who Black Lightning, and later one to help, that the book doesn't become about him showing up to save the day or being super integral to everything. The old-world magic in the 100 is too toxic for his kyrptonian body and his powers are diminished, so the book is really about improving a community from the inside. I like how the bigger story is an overarching positive way to fixing something broken, not just by bringing in new resources but working to strengthen it from inside and giving people the hope and belief that they can live better lives.

I did get a little lost while reading the book. Every issue in the 6 issue mini that make up the book is narrated by a different character, his wife, a clean cop he knows, Pierce himself and Clark Kent all lend their opinions and observations of the situation. Those get confusing because they're one overarching idea for the 22 pages of the issues, but the panels are interspersed with the current dialogue. As I was reading I just stumbled over the dialogue versus the 'voice over' because both were important, but they're both being read so I'd read from one VO sentence into a dialogue sentence and would just get turned around.  I don't know if it was me or the comic being a little ambition with having that much go on. I don't read heroes that often, but I can't think of too many modern comics that have that type of 'this is how I saw the situation' type of thing going on. It's better than older comics where there's a giant caption box explaining the art in the panel.

On Cully's Art.  

I was originally not into it. It might just have been the thing of settling into a design because art evolves every time you pick up a pencil. It shifts, improves, changes. Maybe I just got used to the style for the book. I love the designs of everyone. I love how Black Lightnings costume functions and how simple it is. His true Hero costume may be kevlar and other armor but it's a tee shirt, leather jacket, jeans and stylized fold-down boots. The bottom half of the costume feels very early comics and is on the skin -tight side, but the idea of the costume is good. It's realistic clothing, and I like that the mask is connected to a wig so his identity is really concealed. I also like how it's presented to him. He starts out running around in a hoodie and jeans. When he admits his nightlife to his family they present him with his new Hero Armor. They're in on it, they're supportive, it's great.

As a black comics reader, even though I might not identify with many presentation of black characters in media, I did like seeing a world populated with different types of black people. Each was a character, each had ones and desires. It may be the 'bad' side of town, or the 'black' side of town, but the motivations that many characters had for what they were doing were apparently, the negative roads the kids were heading down were a product of the only things they saw. But design wise, there's more than one type of black person, in hair style, in fashion style.  

It's just such a good book. Give it a read, I was excited to pick it up every time I had the chance. It touched on a not often explored part of the DCU, and it shows that Dc can be not horrible to black characters. It shows a world realistically populated with important male and female characters who do good for the story. I think that both Jen and Cully did wonderful jobs and I'd love to read more of their interpretation of this character. I'd also love to see more of the DC animations done of Black Lightning, I hope he gets his own show, it's be boss. The black DC characters I know of who are have been in cartoons are Cyborg (I only know him from Teen Titans), Static Shock, but Black Lightning as a DCAU show could be another positive black hero, but also an adult and not just another child doing things. 

Black Actors and the Academy Awards

Incomplete, but i don't feel the passion i generally need to really finish this and I'm not in the place I need to be for it to have the energy it deserves. i lost that while writing and I hoped it would return, it never did. I feel I made some good arguments and mentioned some valid points on American culture and society with entertainment media, I just never wrapped up either that i thought the problem was or how to fix it. A real writer wouldn't post this. Thank the god I don't believe in ii'm not a real writer and I can post whatever the fuck I want on my website. 

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I unashamedly and unapologetically love  much of what JF Sargent writes, I tend to agree with his opinions and I enjoy how he discusses race and gender issues in media and pop culture. I appreciate that someone is talking about this and it's not just the social justice posters on tumblr, it's not written from rage and hate, these articles are written from a point of view of 'this is what's going on and we as a society need to acknowledge and change this'. That said, I was right there when I read a recent Film School Rejects  article on the Academy Awards having issues with slavery and awarding black actors for their performances in these types of period pieces. 

I think there is a deeper underlying issue to address in conjunction to his statements on how rare black actors are awarded for their performances as slaves, I think we need to look at the types of roles that black actors are nominated and awarded for to begin with. I'll be honest, I'm using wikipedia for this information, I haven't seen many of these movies but I do believe that there have been respectable actors and performances that have been overlooked because of unacknowledged racism in the judging of these films and their performances. I have been critical of the parts that black actors have in movies, they're often terrible stereotypes that do nothing to improve the public opinion and status of black people in this country. 

Sidney Poitier, one of the greatest black actors from film history who worked in a hateful system and did the best he could to present a respectable black man in every part. He has been criticized for being 'castrated' and never really having a sexuality in his films. He happened to be black and that was the basis for many of the problems in his movies where he still delivered fantastic performances. He played educated men in many films, delivered fantastic performances and ended up winning one award fro his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963 as an unpaid worker for some nuns and it's religious. His only other Oscar was an honorary life time achievement award. 

The next black man to with an Oscar was Denzel Washington for Training Day in 2001 in  a part that I sometimes consider questionable given his character was a crazy drug addict.  

There have been 4 black actors to win the Academy for best male actor, and Denzel is up again, I never saw Flight so I can't compare his nomination to Foxx's for Django, but this is another character of ill rebuke. Most of the best actor nominations have been for negative portrayals of black people, I feel this says a lot of the parts presented to black actors in American movies that they're so often nominated for being successful negative characters.

Looking at black women for best actress in a leading role Halle Barry is the only one to win, for Monster's Ball, a dark dramatic performance. The other performances that black women have been nominated for vary in the respectability of the characters but still seems to run dark and with negative depictions of black characters. 

There are 4 wins as best supporting actor. 5 for best supporting actress, one win for short documentary, 2 for original score, 5 for original song, 4 for sound mixing split between two men, one for best original screen play then a few special awards. 

The low number of wins and in conjunction low number of nominations stem from different causes and unconscious racism cannot be the only cause of this. Looking at how black culture considers the arts and types of arts that are acceptable for their children and what they encourage is someone that needs to be taken into consideration. But looking at the nominations, 16 for best male lead and 15 for best female lead since 1959 when the first black actors were first nominated in pitiful. How often were black performances looked over because they were by black actors? How often was the race of the character important to the narrative? It feels wrong to nominated and award black actors so often for performances where the crux of the narrative is on them being a black person. 

I'm not arguing or discounting what Sargent presents and his argument in how uncomfortable the Academy is with slavery but I'm also looking at the types of roles that black actors so often are presented with and how they reflect on so larger a part of American culture. The same considerations and criticism can be discussed with the television portrayal of black characters.