Rosa Parks, as awesome as she was, was not the first Black woman to refuse to move to the back of the bus. And Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame, as awesome as she is, is not the first woman to be part of an interracial kiss on television. But in both cases, they initiated catalyst events that helped change the world for the better.
–On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: November 22, 1968–
Exactly when the first interracial kiss happened on television is a contested subject. As context, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t approve interracial marriage until 1967. In the UK, the first interracial kiss involving a Black person on TV dates back to 1959. In the 1950s in America Lucy and Desi, who were married real life, kissed on I Love Lucy, but a Cuban kissing a white person isn’t the same thing as Black person doing it in racist as fuck America.
And it wasn’t even the first interracial kiss on Star Trek. In October 1967 William Shatner playing Captain Kirk kissed Filipino actress Barbara Luna. And earlier that year Ricardo Montalbán, a Mexican playing an Indian, kissed one of Kirk’s white officers played by Madlyn Rhue.
But a Black woman and a white man kissing on television in the U.S. was a Big Deal, and it was broadcast for the first time on November 22, 1968, between Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura and Shatner as Kirk.
The episode was called “Plato’s Stepchildren,” and this is the cool part. NBC was being overly cautious cockwaffles about airing the kiss because of certain even-more-racist-than-average states. They wanted two versions: with a kiss, and without. But Nichols and Shatner deliberately fucked up the “no kiss” scene again and again so there was no “no kiss” version, and the executives had no choice but to air the episode with the kiss.
The effect of the kiss, once it aired, was overwhelmingly positive. Fan mail poured in, with almost no one considering it offensive. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a bunch of snowflakes out there who couldn’t handle people with varying degrees of melanin in their skin touching lips, but perhaps they weren’t Star Trek fans.
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