Sunday, March 20, 2011
This reality is even more starkly stated by a young man, probably a teenager, who also frequents the diner. When we first see him, Jimmy is trying to sell Benny a watch he “found.” Benny tries to counsel him to stay out of trouble, and tells him about his story that Jimmy interprets as “a Negro on the moon.” He scoffs but sounds interested. That Jimmy is played by Cirroc Lofton, who normally plays Sisko’s son Jake, adds another dimension to the relationship of Benny and Jimmy.
Later, Jimmy makes the most verbally daring statement in the episode, one that some would prefer to ignore. What’s now called “the ‘n’ word” is all but forbidden these days, even in a period drama. Yet in the 1950s it was a common term—demeaning and insulting, sometimes uttered with conscious contempt but also without conscious malice, though with the same derogatory meaning. Because of that it is a powerful word, and Jimmy uses it.
Impatient with the idea of a black captain in some far future, Jimmy says bitterly: “Today or a hundred years from now, it don’t make a bit of difference. As far as they’re concerned, we’ll always be niggers.”
Though Benny insists things will change because they have to, it is more a distressed and yearning hope than a confident or rational prediction. For by this time, his story of a black Captain has been rejected.