Why are flying cars not mainstream

Black America

Christian Werthschulte

To person

Christian Werthschulte is a cultural and political scientist and works as an author and editor for the daily newspaper, Stadtrevue and WDR, among others. [email protected]

On November 22nd, 1968 the spaceship Enterprise flew for two years and over 60 episodes through the infinite expanses of space and its captain James T. Kirk had already kissed several women on his journey. On this day, however, a bridge member of the Enterprise was the target of his unbroken macho: Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer from Africa. The kiss of Kirk and Uhura is believed to be the first kiss between a white American and a black American in a US television series, and it was obvious that it had to take place in space. [1] The episode takes place in the year 2268 - far enough away that NBC viewers do not associate it with the civil rights struggles taking place at the same time in the USA. The series makers presented a figure cabinet that may have looked utopian in the mid-1960s: crew members from Russia, the USA, China and Africa work together on the Enterprise.

But Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, was unhappy with her role. She found that Uhura was an alibi figure. After all, as a communications officer, she was not only the lowest-ranking member on the bridge of the Enterprise, but was also pushed into a typically female role: the intergalactic equivalent of chief secretary. She wanted to quit. After all, it was Martin Luther King Jr. personally who convinced Nichols to stay aboard the Enterprise: "You are changing the minds of people all over the world. Through you, we see ourselves for the first time: what we are what we fight for and what we take to the streets for. "[2]

Uhura's presence on the Enterprise served two purposes: it showed that the racism of the 1960s could be overcome, and it represented an alternative blueprint for the future. In popular science fiction, even in advanced novels, there were hardly any characters from Africa. And in the popular science future scenarios of flying cars and fully automated kitchens, African Americans were also absent. Uhura, on the other hand, embodied a new matter of course: In the future, black people will have a place in the command center. Uhura is perhaps one of the most popular representatives of Afrofuturism, a movement in film, literature, art and pop music that imagines a future in which black people have an equal place.

Around the same time as Kirk and Uhura kissed, anthropologist John Szwed attended a jazz ensemble concert at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania: "In the middle was a plump, medieval man with an uninvolved facial expression in an electronics cockpit. He wore one on his head Hut, which was a model of our solar system. He fingered the keyboards that were set up around him, finally pounding on them with his fists and forearms. (...) Sun Ra was in the house and in his universe. " [3]

Sun Ra was born in 1914 as Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama. After the Second World War, he transformed himself into the fictional character Sun Ra in Chicago, an alien from Saturn, who took its name from the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra. "Sun Ra has a mythology of the future that combines space, electronic synthesis, Egyptology, a form of community and a queer form of celibacy," summarizes the British-Ghanaian cultural theorist Kodwo Eshun.

Sun Ra also made an impact in the "Motor City" of Detroit. George Clinton, band leader of Parliament Funkadelic, was a big fan of the jazz musician. He also saw himself as an alien. When Parliament performed live, a UFO was placed in the background of the stage. On the cover of the Parliament album "Mothership Connection" (1975) you can see Clinton in the front door of a spaceship - it remains unclear whether he will be drawn into the spaceship or want to leave the spaceship again.

While Lieutenant Uhura stood for a future in which black people could enjoy the same rights, Sun Ra and George Clinton stylized themselves as the "alien", which in English is both the "extraterrestrial" and the "stranger": an identity design that focuses on the kidnapping of his ancestors during slavery. In this imagination, the spaceship becomes a metaphor for the slave ships and the place of new possibilities: If black people are aliens on the planet USA, assimilation can hardly be expected from them. Afrofuturism thus becomes a field in which the status quo can be renegotiated by African Americans.