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When I think about issues of race, I think about Star Trek. The program was able to take on controversial social issues in the late 1960s because they slipped quite a lot of things past the censors under the guise of science fiction. On January 10th, 1969 I watched the episode entitled 'Let That Be Your Last Battlefield' that convinced me that racism is stupid. Perhaps everyone should watch it now, given that while a lot has changed since 1969, a lot hasn't changed.

Essentially the episode is about a man being rescued by the Enterprise crew. The left side of his face is black and the other half white. It turns out he is being pursued by another alien from the same planet -- the right side of his face is white and the other half black. The point is that they are the same with the one difference that black and white are on reversed sides. Nobody every accused the original Star Trek series of subtlety.  Still, if you weren't paying attention, both men looked the same. The only possible conclusion for viewers was that racism is stupid. That something as arbitrary as color could define a human being (or an alien from the planet Cheron) simply doesn't make sense.

Yet skin color has created rifts in human society for centuries,and that has led to cultural differences that do make sense in terms of people of one race fearing those of another. And when something stupid leads to people being killed gratuitously in, no less, the 'friendliest state' of Minnesota -- stupid takes on a distinctly sinister hue.

Or Smurfs. Smurfs are supposedly adorable, even though they are blue.

By the way Star Trek is widely credited with the first television interracial kiss. It was between (white) Kirk and (black) Uhura, but again it was only because it was science fiction that it was allowed or considered acceptable in late 1968, when the episode called 'Plato's Stepchildren' aired. The story was about aliens who worshiped Plato mind-controlling the Enterprise crew and making them do things (like the kiss) for their own amusement. I always wondered about Star Trek why so many aliens from other planets had ancient Greek and Roman names and references. The Romulans, for example... they even looked like ancient Romans, their government was a Roman-like Senate...

Anyway, my point is that the fact that the kiss was between people of different races was irrelevant to the plot. They were simply two humans being humiliated against their wills. The fact that the kiss was interracial and that race didn't factor into it was in itself revolutionary.

That Star Trek got away with social commentary on broadcast TV was remarkable in the decade that spawned the Harlem riots in 1964, Watts in 1965, and the Newark Detroit riots in 1967 because of extreme frustration over racial discrimination. This week as in the '60s, the important message about equality and injustice has been muddled by looters, somehow linking looting to legitimate protest.  They are not linked.  Looters are thugs who may or may not use a social issue as an excuse to break the law.  Acting as a distraction from the real message is much worse than their malfeasance, because it dilutes people's perception of the real problem and gives society an excuse to not fix it.

In the wake of the George Floyd killing former President George Bush released a statement Tuesday, in which he says, "America's greatest challenge has long been to unite people of different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity." He hit the nail on the head. This is supposed to be the country that embraces differences and melds them into a stronger nation, taking the best attributes of each diverse group. "The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals -- to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights," Bush says.

Is it reasonable to accept that only scifi and cartoon characters can achieve racial equality?  Even in an era where interracial engagement of all sorts is fine on television, is it reasonable to accept it on TV but not in real life?  Why isn't it reasonable for every US citizen to be treated like a human being?

Stupidity has long been a staple of comedy. Mortimer Snurd, Gracie Allen, Barney Fife, Edith Bunker, and Penny on the 'Big Bang Theory' were among a plethora of characters who were hilarious when they were stupid.

But stupidity isn't at all funny when it is utterly odious or wicked. Distrusting, fearing, and killing people because they are a different color is stupid, and look where it has led us. Embracing differences is smart. That's why so many scientists and business people embrace brainstorming to come up with and hone the very best ideas. Different points of view make for better solutions. Color shouldn't enter into it.

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