32

Like it or not, racism has been a major part of Earth's history. It still plagues the planet today. However, in the future that Star Trek presents, same-species racism has been practically eliminated, with all peoples (for the most part) receiving equal opportunity. Now, I know that sexism exists within various species (the Ferengi for example), but what about racism? Different skin colors are apparent in multiple species. Has there ever been evidence of racism within other alien species in any instance of their history?

  • 13
    Does the new Discovery series count? The first few episodes heavily imply that Klingons are racist towards members of their own species who don't conform exactly to how 'the average Klingon' looks – Cronax Jan 23 '18 at 11:31
  • 13
    Are you really limiting the scope to just those 4 series for eternity? You realise you can use the [star-trek] tag as a general tag. – Edlothiad Jan 23 '18 at 13:26
  • 2
    Different skin color doesn't mean different race. Biological racial differences in humans are far, far deeper than that. Skin color happened to coincide with race, but hair color doesn't (it also could have, it's more or less accidental development). You first need to identify a multiracial species in Star Trek. – Davor Jan 23 '18 at 14:15
  • 2
    What’s your definition of species? Because humans, Vulcans, Klingons, Betazoids, and many more are all the same species if we go by the most common definition of species for eukaryotes (able to produce fertile offspring). – Wrzlprmft Jan 24 '18 at 5:01
  • 2
    Are you asking about institutional, interpersonal, or internalized same-species racism? – Lexible Jan 24 '18 at 17:20
31

Augments versus "natural" humans

"Whenever a group of people start believing they are better than everyone else, the results are always the same."

— Jonathan Archer, speaking to Arik Soong ("Borderland").

Genetically-enhanced humans (Khan and his followers; Arik Soong's adopted children) oppressed unenhanced humans in the Eugenics Wars and smaller-scale incidents. Soong's children even heaped scorn on one of their own number (Smike) for lacking some (but not all) of their genetic gifts.

Among humans, backlash against Augments resulted in government-sanctioned genetic discrimination that continued to limit Augments' career choices -- even their existence -- into at least the 24th Century.

Yangs versus Kohms

The two ethnic/cultural groups in "The Omega Glory"1 had a longstanding conflict. Their mutual hatred was so deeply embedded that one group, when it seized power, initially saw no problem with denying fundamental rights to the other.

Klingons

The augment virus did not affect all Klingons, and ship crews were never shown to contain a mixture of the two phenotypes. This segregation could have been voluntary2 as a face-saving measure for the afflicted, but it may also have been imposed by the purebloods.


1 The episode doesn't definitively state that Yangs and Kohms are the same species. They're just played by actors from different ethnic groups, without any alien prosthetics or makeup.

2 Dr. Antaak's idea for offering a cranial reconstruction service and Worf's reluctance to discuss the affliction demonstrated how strongly Klingons felt about the effects of the virus.

  • 2
    For the Yangs versus Kohms, that seemed to be prejudice due to different ideologies, rather than due to their appearance (especially given their origin). – Thunderforge Jan 23 '18 at 14:09
  • @Thunderforge - The Enterprise crew speculated that the war started that way, but by the time of the episode it had become more of a traditional hatred. – Gaultheria Jan 23 '18 at 16:34
  • 1
    But was it hatred over race? Or just hatred over being "other"? It's been a long time since I've seen that episode, so perhaps they did address it. My recollection was that the "traditional hatred" wasn't due to the color of their skin (just like how US Capitalists vs. Soviet Communists wasn't "racism" because the discrimination was due to ideology, not skin color, or football rivals are at odds with each other but not due to skin color). Perhaps adding a quote from the episode to support that this is racism would help. – Thunderforge Jan 23 '18 at 17:21
  • 2
    Augments versus "natural" humans: are Augments strictly human - homo sapien - though? I don't think so and they are better than us in the sense they have superior abilities only. Remember Neanderthals are classed as human species but if one could be brought back I don't think anybody would agree that we are the same. For one thing they are stronger and had bigger brains and are likely to have been different in many ways. – onepound Jan 24 '18 at 15:46
  • 1
    Augments don't count. Klingons have been retconned too many times, and if Thunderforge is right, Yangs and Kohms are the same race. – Mazura Jan 25 '18 at 1:51
62

enter image description hereThere was "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” a remarkably unsubtle clunker of an episode, in spite of its worthy message.

SPOILER-NOT-SPOILER: The pair above is the mirror image of the other, i.e., their face is white or black on the respective opposite sides. This is an allegory for attaching significant differences in humanity to skin color on Earth. Here's a choice exchange between the pair:

Kirk: "You're black on one side and white on the other." Bele: "I am black on the right side." Kirk: "I fail to see the significant difference." Bele: "Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side."

And another:

"You're finished, Lokai! Oh, we've got your kind penned in on Cheron into little districts, and it's not going to change! You've combed the galaxy, and come up with nothing but monocolored trash, do-gooders, and bleeding hearts.You're dead! You half-white!" "You useless pieces of bland flesh! I'll take you with me! You half-black!"

  • Bele and Lokai, before lunging at each other

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Let_That_Be_Your_Last_Battlefield_(episode)

  • 1
    Metaphor aside, do we know that Lokai and Bele are the same species? Their two peoples are from the same world, but the divide between them could be deeper than between humans of different skin colour. – Gaultheria Jan 23 '18 at 8:22
  • 7
    I'd need to re-watch to be sure, but didn't Bones identify them as the same species? – Layna Jan 23 '18 at 9:32
  • 7
    @Gaultheria: I think yes, afaik there is a short discussion about the possibility that in ancient times everyone had the same colour. – PlasmaHH Jan 23 '18 at 9:58
  • 2
    A better quote -- Kirk: "You're black on one side and white on the other." Bele: "I am black on the right side." Kirk: "I fail to see the significant difference." Bele: "Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side." – John Bode Jan 24 '18 at 15:33
  • 2
    An entire episode blatantly devoted to the subject of racism. +1 – Mazura Jan 25 '18 at 1:53
18

Voyager, "Remember"

We gradually learn the history of the Enarans. One of their factions/subgroups , the Regressives, were deported and executed in a program of mass genocide which they later attempted to cover up by teaching later generations that the Regressives died due to plague brought about by poor hygiene.

enter image description here

Vulcans vs Romulans

Although the same species, seperated for only a few thousand years Vulcans and Romulans... do not get on well.

  • 1
    I'm not sure about the Vulcans and Romulans. There's longstanding contention between the two groups, but prejudice boils down to "just because", and I don't think they've displayed that level of bias. – Gaultheria Jan 23 '18 at 16:54
  • +1 for Remember. That was immediately what I thought of. – BlackThorn Jan 23 '18 at 20:07
  • 1
    @Gaultheria One values logic above emotion. The other embraces emotion at the expense of logic. They're polar opposites, ideologically. I'm sure there's edge cases where members of each group disagree with the beliefs of the whole, but in general, they're lucky if they can be in the same room without getting in an argument. Think of it like extreme liberals and extreme conservatives trying to get along. Or fascists and libertarians. – Xalorous Jan 24 '18 at 15:05
  • "The Drumhead" also implies that there is prejudice against Romulans (but not Vulcans) in the Federation. But it may not strictly count for this question, as it's not clear that any Vulcans hold this prejudice... – Micah Jan 24 '18 at 17:12
  • The Regressives weren't (said to have been) a separate race, they had a different lifestyle and creed. – Beanluc Jan 24 '18 at 19:40
3

Humans

As Benny Russell, an African-American science fiction author writing the stories of Benjamin Sisko, experiences first hand the racism of twentieth-century humanity.

Benny Russell was an alter ego of Captain Sisko, experienced in visions initiated by the Bajoran Prophets.

  • 1
    This doesn't really fit though because the flashbacks show history as it happened here on earth in reality, not the present in the universe that Star Trek created. – BPugh Jan 24 '18 at 16:34
2

I would say that some of the possible answers to this question depend upon your definition of racism. As another answer mentions, there are not many multiracial species shown in Star Trek, aside from Humans. Vulcans have some, but there are also portrayed as very close to humanity compared to many of the other alien races.

That being said, if what you mean by racism is any form of interspecies prejudice or bigotry, then I would suggest reading up on the history of the Vulcan Mind Meld and how those who practiced that ability were viewed for a long time. There are a few episodes of Enterprise dealing with this and it is heavily likened to how homosexuality was viewed in the 1980s, as there is a disease is involved as well as a general taboo put onto the practice as a result.

Closer to the typical definition of racism is the case of the Aenar, who are a different race of Andorians than are typically portrayed. Also featured in an Enterprise arc, it could be argued that they are discriminated against in some ways, but its hard to tell since Andorians tend to deal with everyone in the same aggressive manner and the Aenar's separation from the main Andorian society seems self-imposed. But there are many forms of subtle or unconscious racism that might have led up to that state of being.

2

Yes, bigotry exists in the Star Trek universe. And xenophobia as well.

FWIW, prejudice against species from outside is called xenophobia. 'Racism' is misused in 99.9% of cases. We say "that's racist" when what we mean is "that's prejudiced", or "that's bigotry". It's all xenophobia in the end. The subconscious "fear of other" or "fear of the unknown" is at the root of prejudice and bigotry.

There is plenty of xenophobia in Star Trek.

Also, many cases of conflict within individual species. Humanity still has vestiges of prejudice. e.g. enhanced humans (Khan). Romulans and Vulcans are the same species, biologically, with polar opposite cultures. That's just two, and they're not all of the examples from ToS.

From the beginning, Roddenberry shone the light brightly on bias and prejudice as destructive human qualities. Even if an episode wasn't about prejudice, there were often symbolic references to it.

Edit: Added explicit answer, made the answer clearer.

  • Not only does this not answer the question, it essentially accuses the OP of not using the right words to ask what (you think) they want to ask. I'm positive that the OP knows there's xenophobia in ST. – Beanluc Jan 24 '18 at 19:42
  • @Beanluc Actually, I do address prejudice and bias. OP did not use the right words. Sorry that I wasn't as explicit enough in my language. Race is a biological distinction, not a social one. Prejudice based on appearance or ethnic background or religious belief is bigotry. Roddenberry was perhaps one of the first to use the media with such a strong emphasis on social issues. OP is asking if "racism" such as we see in the US still exists in the UFP. My answer is yes, plus there's xenophobia too. – Xalorous Feb 19 '18 at 14:33
  • @Xalorous Well, I thought the title "Does same-species racism exist in Star Trek?" made it clear. – Donatello Swansino Mar 8 '18 at 22:55
1

TNG espide "Attached" might count. http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Attached The Kes and Prytt appear to regard each other as inferior, and the Prytt call the Kes "xenophobic", but this could also just be seen as two nation states opposing each other as opposed to racism.

1

One theme that is very strong in Star Trek: Discovery is "abuse" and therefor there is this kind of xenophobic undertone running through the first season. However, the series is not so much just looking at the abuse, which can be seen as predjudice against "others", but rather a deeper pyschological element on abuse in wartime and if perhaps war itself is xenophobic in nature?

Some examples in Discovery's first season:

  1. Klingon Houses - Although there is an effort to become an Empire of Klingons, there is an aspect of this story that is looking at factions of Klingons through both houses and leadership of any given house. There is a competitive nature and a thirst to dominate, proving that some of the Klingons are more than ok with hurting each other, let alone members of Starfleet.

  2. The Female Klingon L'Rell's relationship with Ash Tyler. L'Rell had been working as an interogator and sexually abused and tortured Ash Tyler, resulting in the character beginning to display symptoms of PTSD. It's unlcear if despite that the audience would clearly see this as abuse, if L'Rell does--If she does not have romantic feelings for him, despite doing her job or if this is how she normally would do her job to any subject??? However, there is an additional plot twist here, that I will not reveal, but makes this more complicated in terms of race.

  3. The abuse of the Macro-Metaphysical Snetinal Tartagrade. Being a science vessel turned into weapons program, Lorca pushes his Discovery crew to get results. When the characters discover a spore-loving creature that can change the way Discovery (and other Starfleet vessels) travels, Lorca, through Commander Landry, tries to motivate the tartigrade, through torture, until Landry is killed and Micheal Burnham finds results through more humane efforts. However, after realizing that the Tartigrade can only last so long being used as a hub of the ships' new spore-drive, Michael is able to convince Lorca to free it. This then leads Lorca to find another way...

  4. Lt. Stammets is convinced by Lorca to genetically alter-himself and become a new component for the spore-drive. Lorca continiously manipulates Stammets into this position, even though it's clear that the genetic modification changes his personality and/or creates bi-polor personality shifts and is taking a toll on his body. (human on human abuse).

  5. Captain Lorca displeased with Starfleets orders, sends his friend and higher commanding offier, Admiral Cornwall, to a set meeting with the Klingons to replace an indisposed Sarek, where he hoped she would meet her death.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.