Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Future Not So Long Ago

July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Legislation which outlawed blatant discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities, including women.

Two years later, September 1966, Star Trek aired on NBC, with a clear agenda to show racial diversity and tolerance was the future. The show featured a relative mosaic of ethnic characters ranging from European, African, Asian and mixed heritage, prime-time on a major television network.

This was considered somewhat "pushing the envelope" amongst television producers who in the mid-1960's were still apprehensive if Mr. and Mrs. Mainstream America (non-ethnic America) was ready to have "colored-faces" regularly appearing in their living rooms. Star Trek's writers frequently touched on themes that even today are still considered "touchy". Emotional conflicts of being a mixed or bi-racial child and even allegories of the deep rooted racism between white and black Americans (Star Trek: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, Jan. 1969).

The look of the original Star Trek may look dated or at best, vintage fashion (still dig the super-miniskirts, bring that back, man) but the shifting of a new mindset towards racial diversity and equality was not that long ago.

This 4th of July weekend, despite being in Tokyo, it's good to reflect that when I return home, rights such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 safeguard diversity in daily life, and thusly promoting it other walks of life such as media and entertainment. At the risk of sounding didactic (as I usually do) ---- this shouldn't be an issue, but it shouldn't be forgotten or trivialized either.

Found a feature article in Ebony Magazine dated Jan. 1967, with a cover story on actress Nichelle Nichols' role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. Fun stuff.

Too bad the idea of pushing the envelope on social issues has been conspicuously absent from Star Trek since the sixties. Funny rather than thinking towards the future, the franchise has been thinking backwards. Just my two cents.

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