A few years ago, a Star Trek fan discovered a 1968 teen magazine article written by Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock. Nimoy was replying to the letter of a biracial girl who, like Spock, felt she didn’t fit into either of her racial cultures.
His reply is inspiring. I didn’t find a site where it was transcribed in full (the original text is small) so I’m transcribing it below.
I wonder how the biracial girl felt about Nimoy’s letter. I hope she found it as insightful as I did.
“Dear Mr. Spock,
I am not very good at writing letters so I will make this short. I know that you are half Vulcan and half human and you have suffered because of this. My mother is Negro and my father is white and I am told this makes me a half-breed. In some ways I am persecuted even more than the Negro. The Negroes don’t like me because I don’t look like them. The white kids don’t like me because I don’t exactly look like one of them either. I guess I’ll never have any friends.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Leonard became so interested in this girl’s situation, FaVE [the magazine] offered him this chance to tell everyone what Mr. Spock did when he faced this problem.
“As you may know, only Spock’s mother was human. His father was a Vulcan. Spock grew up among Vulcan children and, because he was different, he had to face the problem of not being accepted. This is because people, especially young people it seems, and Vulcans, too, tend to form into groups, kind of like wolf packs. They often demand that you be just like them or you will not be accepted. And the Vulcans were no different than humans are when it comes to prejudice.
Most of the Vulcan kids didn’t like Spock because he was half human. So they wouldn’t include him in all the things they did. He was very lonely and no one understood him. And Spock was heartbroken because he wasn’t popular. But it was only the need for popularity that was ruining his happiness. The question was which was more important, being ‘popular’ with the pack who might turn against him at any minute or being true to himself?
It takes a great deal of courage to turn your back on popularity and to go out on your own. Although inside you’re not really like the members of the pack, it’s still frightening to decide to leave them, because as long as you’re popular, you at least have someone to hang around with. But if you do leave, then you may end up all alone.
Now, there’s a little voice inside each of us that tells us when we’re not being true to ourselves. We should listen to this voice. Often we try to talk ourselves into believing our actions are good – ‘it’s okay to pick on that person’ we say because it may make us popular for awhile with the pack.
But usually there is no good reason for picking on anyone. He’s only bullied or turned away because of his background, because of the way he looks or talks or thinks. It’s always only because he’s different – not worth less personally than anyone else.
KNEW HIS OWN WORTH
“Spock learned he could save himself from letting prejudice get him down. He could do this by really understanding himself and knowing his own value as a person. He found he was equal to anyone who might try to put him down – equal in his own unique way.
You can do this too, if you realize the difference between popularity and true greatness. It has been said that ‘popularity’ is merely the crumbs of greatness.
When you think of people who are truly great and who have improved the world, you can see that they are people who have realized they didn’t need popularity because they knew they had something special to offer the world, no matter how small that offering seemed. And they offered it and it was accepted with peace and love. It’s all in having the patience to find out what you yourself have to offer the world that’s really uniquely yours.
So – the answer to the whole problem, the answer that Spock found when he had to make his big decision, is in overcoming the need to be popular. It’s in choosing your own personal goal and going after it and forgetting what the others are saying. If you do this, then the ones who accept people for the right reasons – for their true worth – will find you and like you.
So Spock said to himself: “OK, I’m not Vulcan, so the Vulcans don’t want me. My blood isn’t pure red Earth blood. It’s green. And my ears – well, it’s obvious I’m not pure human. So they won’t want me either. I must do for myself and not worry about what others think of me who don’t really know me.
LISTENED TO THE VOICE
Spock decided he would live up to his own personal value and uniqueness. He’d do whatever made him feel best about himself. He decided to listen to that little voice inside him and not to the people around him.
He replaced the idea of wanting to be liked with the idea of becoming accomplished. Instead of being interested in being popular, he became interested in being intelligent. And instead of wanting to be powerful, he became interested in being useful.
He said to himself: ‘Not everyone will like me. But there will be those who accept me just for what I am. I will develop myself to such a point of excellence, intelligence and brilliance that I can see through any problem and deal with any crisis. I will become such a master of my own abilities and career that there will be a place for me. People of all races will need me and not be able to do without me.’
And that’s just what he did. And when I see him standing there on the bridge of the Enterprise, facing danger and life-and-death problems so cooly and with so much intelligence, I’m sure he made the right decision.”