Who’s Leonard Nimoy?
“I’m having a crappy day and to top it off Leonard Nimoy died today.” I told my wife as I was getting into our car after a particularly challenging day. No, I was not a huge trekkie growing up, but I did have a lot of respect for Leonard Nimoy and for Spock, the character that seemingly only he could bring to life. Truthfully, Spock and I had a lot in common, we were both mixed and neither one of us had an easier time for it. I typically don’t share my personal story here at the Labs, but I thought I would make an acception.
My lack of pointy ears means I was not exactly like Spock, no I am a Mexican-American. Ironically I speak more english than I do spanish and this was always a point of contention growing up. My last name distinctly gave away my heritage, just like Spocks pointy ears gave away his, and if that was the end of my story then I might have never really been inspired by Spock.
I came from a broken household, my mother and father split and I was left with my grandmother. To put it politely she was horribly abusive, but she was the only one in the family who would take me in, so I was stuck. I look white, not pale white, but white enough that any of the hispanic children I tried to play with loved to point it out. Conversely, when any of the white kids I tried to play with found out my last name it was often followed with a barrage of questions and insults — or maybe it was just strong teasing that was only fun for them.
This limited my connections with people, severely. So I was pretty much raised by TV, it didn’t take too long for me to fall in love with scifi and to find the epitome of all Scifi shows, Star Trek. No, I’m not quite old enough to have seen it the first time around, these were reruns, but I watched intently as each character unfolded.
Spock always had a cool, calm, and scientific — dare I say logical? — way of looking at the world. This would become the model for who I strived to be. Of course it wasn’t just the character that interested me, Nimoy was as kind and fair as the character he portrayed. He even wrote to a young girl who had a similar experience in 1968, back when people used the term “negro” or “colored” as if the rest of us were clear, and it was headlined “Spock: Teenage Outcast (granted I only recently came accross this).
“Spock learned he could save himself from letting prejudice get him down,” Nimoy wrote. “He could do this by really being himself and knowing his own value as a person.”
As I got older, life with my last name and skin color (or lack thereof) got easier. That is until a particular Christmas came about.
Driving from my apartment Christmas eve with presents in the back and friends in the car, I didn’t even make it out of the complex when I saw the police lights behind me and came to a stop. I would later find out that I had forgotten to put the flip down license plate back in the upright (and visible) position. When the officer looked at my license, I was immediately removed from the drivers seat, promptly placed in handcuffs and sat in the back of the police car.
Handcuffed in the seat behind him, I watched as he ran my license and answered questions about any drug, gang, or evil doings that I might be involved in. It was the first time I had an interaction with an policeman and I was still naive enough to think that there was no such thing as a bad police officer. This was shattered when he opened his mouth and said:
“You know, there are a lot of bad people with your name.”
Soon after he let me go (since I had committed no crime) and I was on my way. I would later go on to change my name and wouldn’t you know it, not long after, all those mail ads I would get in spanish stopped coming. Maybe I caved, maybe it was not “Spock like,” but it was my choice.
Frankly it wasn’t Spock so much as it was Nimoy that impressed me. He lived his life so beautifully and with such grace. He was a very honourable person, and his life reflected that. His family reflects that. He didn’t care if you were, gay, full figured, old, young, white, black, green, orange, he tried to treat everyone like people.
He treated people the way he wanted to be treated, a lost art in our society today, where gay marriage somehow diminishes the relationship with my wife, or so I am told. He saw the beauty of people no matter what they looked like, this was clear especially with his full body project photography. In the end it turns out that Spock was more Leonard Nimoy than Nimoy was Spock, despite Spocks long lasting fame.
So when I looked at my wife and told her that he passed, I thought I was seeing the same sad look that I had.
Then she said “Who’s Leonard Nimoy?” and I only had one word for her,