Star Trek and the Multi-Racial Future

The new Star Trek movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, raises interesting questions about the future of multiculturalism.  The film sends two strong messages:

1)    Diversity is normal.  As in the original television series, the cast of characters is a menagerie of distinct races and cultures: Kirk, a White man from rural Iowa; Scotty, a Scotsman with a heavy Scottish accent; Chekhov, a Russian with a heavy Russian accent; Sulu, an Asian; Uhura, a African-American; and Spock, a super-smart, green-blooded Vulcan.  The producers of Star Trek assume that in the year 2248 (239 years in the future), people will still exhibit distinct racial, cultural, and linguistic traits. Non-Whites are depicted as no less competent and no less likely to hold positions of authority than White people, and diverse workforces on spaceships are highly functional.

2)    Interracial relationships are normal.  All of the sexual/romantic relationships depicted in the film are interracial except for one (Kirk’s father and mother).  Kirk, apparently, is sexually attracted only to non-Whites and non-humans.  Interracial relationships are depicted not only as common, but as unquestionably right.  Spock, who has a Vulcan father and a human mother, reacts emotionally to nothing except criticism of his mixed parentage.  In a poignant moment in the movie, Spock’s father teaches him that one’s choice of a mate should be based more on “love” than on “logic” — or genetic similarity, we can assume.  Spock himself has a black romantic partner in the movie.

The Multi-Racial World of Star Trek

I wonder how many viewers perceive the incompatibility of these two messages. Star Trek’s fictional world is set 10 generations in the future. It’s a world where technology has eliminated geographical barriers, where people live and work in well-functioning, diverse environments, where interracial relationships are normal, and where any social controls against exogamy are considered morally wrong. In such a world, the races and cultures would have had plenty of time to blend together.

The producers of Star Trek are essentially suggesting that the races and cultures of the world today should not only celebrate diversity, but practice exogamy to a very high degree — at least to the degree, presumably, that groups of White people have practiced exogamy with other White groups in the United States.

In considering the suggestion, imagine if a colonial American playwright, writing in 1770 (239 years in the past), made a prediction that the descendants of the distinct groups of Swedish, German, and English White people then living in America would, in 2009, continue to constitute three distinct groups with preserved genetic and linguistic traits.  Having the benefit of hindsight, we would think this playwright was a fool.

So what should we think of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the writers of the new Star Trek movie, and J.J. Abrams, the director?

Isn’t it obvious that in the long term, you can have diversity or free-wheeling exogamy, but you can’t have both?  If you want genetic and cultural distinctiveness, you will have to tolerate social controls against exogamy and a “good fences make good neighbors” attitude to cultural interaction.  If you want to remove all barriers to exogamy, on the other hand, you should expect a genetically blended society of people who won’t know their historical roots without conducting extensive genealogical research.

I think this is obvious now, but it wasn’t obvious to me just a few years ago, before I started reading publications like The Occidental Observer.  I remember hearing an interview of an Iraqi man who had been imprisoned by U.S. forces during the Iraq War.  He said (I paraphrase), “I have a message for the American people: Iraqis are happy to interact with Americans in diplomatic settings, in trade, at academic and scientific conferences, and the like. But I want to make one thing clear: You can never have our women!”

At the time, I thought perhaps he was joking, or if he was not, then he was probably an intolerant religious fundamentalist who had not learned the benefits of diversity and thus hated America and clung to backward views about women. If “his” women wanted to move to America and marry Americans, I thought, they should be allowed to pursue their happiness.

Now, however, I think this man’s attitude (or the gender-neutral essence of it) may be the only hope earth has for the conservation of diversity into the twenty-third century.  It’s a standoffish position, certainly, but not a “hateful” one.  It allows for intercultural friendships, just not miscegenation.  And while this attitude may not seem as “positive” and conflict-free as the no-barriers stance exemplified in the Star Trek movie, isn’t it better to risk hurt feelings in the short term in exchange for protecting against cultural loss in the long term?

Of course, any attempt to re-legitimate social controls against exogamy would undermine decades of efforts to pathologize these social controls, especially those practiced by Whites. Perhaps it is interesting that the ethnicities of the movie’s creators — Abrams and Kurtzman are Jewish, while Orci is Latino — are ethnicities that are relatively insulated from the integrationist zeitgeist. There is no popular criticism of Rahm Emmanuel’s decision to volunteer at an Israeli Defense Force base during the Persian Gulf War, for example, or Sonia Sotomayor’s decision to join La Raza. Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan is considered dangerous, all forms of explicit White collectivism are considered evil, and Barack Obama’s mixed parentage is celebrated.

If the two messages of the Star Trek movie dominate American culture over the next ten generations, perhaps the only distinctive groups left standing will be those that are able to control culture in order to exempt themselves from the universal moral norm of miscegenation and continue to maintain social controls against exogamy among their own group members. Whites, of course, being considered the historically “dominant” group against which other groups define themselves, will be least able to obtain such exemptions, and thus, perhaps, the least likely to be around to command the Starship Enterprise.

Jonathan Pyle (email him) is a lawyer in Philadelphia.