Lauren Lyons, a SpaceX Mission Integration Engineer, and NASA crew members commentate
Lauren Lyons (right), a SpaceX Mission Integration Engineer, and NASA crew members commentate

While riots raged in Minnesota and across the nation over the wrongful death of George Floyd and Michigan police fired on civilians in their own homes and arrested members of the media on live tv for reporting from the scene, SpaceX successfully launched a manned commercial expedition into space. The juxtaposition was stark.

Separation of Space Shuttle | Streets of Minneapolis
30 May 2020: Separation of Space Shuttle | Streets of Minneapolis

I grew up watching Star Trek:TnG; I’m obsessed with tackling novel ideas and unexplored territories. As a child of Star Trek, “race”, for me, was an issue I was completely ignorant of until the 7th grade. It was one of the most unsettling moments of my life, as revelations of a disgraceful past drove an invisible wedge between me and my classmates of color. I try as hard as I can to forget it. For me, constantly being reminded that some people are keeping these toxic divisions alive is like watching someone argue that the Earth is the center of the universe. I just want to say, “We’ve been through this, guys. The facts are in, and it’s not. Let’s stop spinning our wheels and get on with the real work.”

When I was growing up, I thought that work would be the creation of replicators, teleporters, and the achievement of warp speed. Now I think it’s climate change, systemic corruption, consolidation of wealth, class inequality… But never for a second did I dream that we should be here 300 millennia since the birth of the human race, 2+ millennia from Jesus and Buddha, 1.5 centuries on from Lincoln and half a century since MLK… still having this same conversation. That is embarrassing.

Nichelle Nichols as Communications Officer Nyota Uhura (1966-1991)
Nichelle Nichols as Communications Officer Nyota Uhura (Star Trek, 1966-1991)

Race” is an outdated idea that has long-since been debunked. It was invented by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in 1779. Your ancestors’ proximity to the sun explains how much melanin your body produces. It’s nothing but a permanent tan for people who come from generations who needed it. Trace anyone back far enough, and we all had it: all of the earliest human fossils come from the region of the African continent. The farther we exist from the equator and the deeper indoors, the more translucent we become – our cells effectively opening the blinds as they strain for the slightest sip of that sweet vitamin D.

(And if you’re coming from a Christian orthodox background in America, well: the scriptures were all discovered in the Middle-East. Which is also the home of Bethlehem. So Jesus had a perma-tan, too.)

There’s more genetic disparity between two fruit flies than between two human beings. We have different cultures, inherited traits, unique heritage, upbringing, all that – sure. But we’re fundamentally the same thing. And frankly, I wouldn’t treat a rat the way some people treat each other.

Guinan, "The Measure of a Man" (13 February 1989) by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Guinan, “The Measure of a Man” (13 February 1989) by Melinda M. Snodgrass

“Us” vs “them” mentality is born of struggle and suffering. People don’t have enough, they get tribal, they blame and suspect the other guy – finding superficial reasons to “otherize”, dehumanize and vilify. It’s an act of desperation and of helplessness born from the fury of a faceless enemy: a power structure with no single source, no target point. The feelings are real but the conclusion is wrong.

I have a lot of problems, but at least I don’t have to worry about being negatively profiled, over-incarcerated, abused, and murdered by the so-called “justice” system. Or being falsely accused for asking an identically-surnamed parkgoer to observe the leash law. Or being arrested for reporting the news.

Look at how much worse the world would be if not for black pioneers. No blood banks, pacemakers, gas masks, potato chips, automatic cars… no Star Trek-style elevator doors! And who knows where the Space Shuttle program would be. Imagine where we COULD be, were opportunities equal.

People are like cats; they come in all colors. If you are still entertaining racist thoughts – it’s 2020. Time to wake up. The alarm has been ringing for centuries, and we’re disgustingly late for the future.

You know, there are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy. “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.

– Jean-Luc Picard, “The Drumhead” (29 April 1991) by Jeri Taylor

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: the Next Generation (1987-1994)
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: the Next Generation (1987-1994)