Trouble with Tribbles and Lieutenant Uhura

We made a tribble.

My son loves the original Star Trek. He wants a model Enterprise, and he spent some time this evening trying to draw one. My son never takes half an interest in anything. He has his Star Trek action figures (though from the recent film, not the series), he has a Star Trek calendar, he wants to find a pattern to make an origami Enterprise (no luck there yet), and he wants a Lego Enterprise as well.

Tonight we made a tribble. More accurately, we took one of the torn up dog toys, salvaged the good parts, and stitched it together into a ball-like shape. Tribble! My son fell asleep with it, but I took it away and put it on a shelf lest the dog try to take it back.

But as we were working on other projects this evening, my 8-year-old son asked, “Why didn’t they give lieutenant Uhura more stories where she can be the hero?” While I struggled with how to answer this, he added, “Aren’t there any where she’s the hero?”

We’ve been going through the old series on Netflix, and I can’t recall if Uhura could be called the hero of any of them.

How do you explain a problem in the world without sounding…well, I don’t know, but I want to sound sane and reasonable when I talk to my son…nor do I want to end up sounding condoning of a way of thinking… It’s complicated!

But I told him that in those times women just weren’t given much to do in stories, and African-American women certainly weren’t. And times haven’t changed much. “How many shows do you watch where you see a black woman get to do much of anything?” I asked him.

He thought about it. “Not any.” He thought some more. “That doesn’t make any sense. That should change. I like Uhura. She could save people. She’s always helping.”


I looked for a video of Uhura that showed her fighting (she does!) but mostly all I found were videos that focused on the kiss between her and Kirk or on how sexy she was. This says something about the state of things in 2011. Oh well, She did have a lovely voice, and this little song she sang to Spock, stuck in my head for years–not the words, but the tune.

Uhura is cool.


4 responses to “Trouble with Tribbles and Lieutenant Uhura

  1. If someone ever wondered if prejudice is learned, they can just ask a child. Two of my kids are older than yours so we’ve had this conversation already, but they reacted pretty much the same way. I almost didn’t want to tell them prejudice exists at all, because I didn’t want to spoil their spotless view of the world.

    • It is hard to know how to talk about these things, but we’ve had a few conversations about it before. For instance, he’s already asked about WWII and the Jews. Sigh.

  2. Charming blog. If I remember right, it was a big deal that a black woman had such a “major” role in the series for those times. Thankfully we’ve advanced a bit since then. While it wasn’t my favorite Star Trek series, I was so glad Voyager had a woman captain. I’m currently watching Deep Space 9 on Netflix where two women have hero roles. .

    • Yes, I told him how Uhura’s role was really significant for its time. We’ve had a few other conversations like this and he seems to have decided that every generation gets smarter that’s why things have gotten better–though we still have some way to go.

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