spock

Spock as Interplanetary Mixed-Race Muse

It seems that Spock and his mixed-species brethren and sistren haven’t served as multiracial muses only to me and fellow NOC Claire.  Even during the last year of its original television run, just a year after the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case legalized all interracial marriage across the United States, Vulcan/human hybrid Spock spoke so much to a biracial black/white teenager in Los Angeles that she wrote to him, via a teen magazine, for advice, so moving that actor Leonard Nimoy wrote her back with a message of self-acceptance.

With Star Trek Week on The Nerds of Color coming to an end after an amazing week of posts both celebratory, critical, and somewhere in between, I wanted to introduce you to two artists of multiracial heritage who use Spock as a way to explore mixed-race identity in their work.

First, Debra Yepa-Pappan is a fine artist of Korean and Jemez Pueblo heritage who addresses issues of mixed-race Asian/Native American identity in her work. The work below, Live Long and Prosper (Spock was a Half-Breed), is featured in the groundbreaking book and exhibition War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art.

Live Long and Prosper (Spock was a Half-Breed), by Debra Yepa-Pappan
Live Long and Prosper (Spock was a Half-Breed), by Debra Yepa-Pappan

Next, poet Matthew Olzmann, Kundiman Prize-winning poet of Filipino and German heritage, explores his mixed childhood via Spock in the following poem, featured in his book Mezzanines and in the online literary magazine “Cura.”

Spock as a Metaphor for the Construction of Race During My Childhood

Consider the mathematics of my German father.
The unconditional tears of my Filipino mother.

Call me Spock, but it was logic versus emotion
every day on Earth.

Out in space, there are over a million miles
between asteroids in an asteroid field.
It’s pretty much impossible to hit one unless you actually aim for it.

Not so on Star Trek. There, they have to grit their teeth,
put their shields up, crash a couple times and assess the damage.
As kid, I was amazed by the skill of those spacemen,
“skill” which I soon realized was nothing more than sheer incompetence.
Hitting an asteroid? There’s just no excuse for that.

A modest revelation. But these revelations
strung themselves together, orbited the planet
in ways that messed with things like gravity and light.
It went like this: You knew you could fly
until your first attempt left you with two broken teeth.
You knew you were like all the other kids,
until your best friend said, No, you’re not.

And he was right.
And in that moment, something shifted.
The galaxy became real, and in its realness, the asteroids
seemed so much closer than you thought.
You were half-alien, staring down an eternity
that was both limitless and dangerous
as a captain’s voice boomed from above:
Brace for impact, we’re going down.

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