In Sunday's NYT, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott offered up a seemingly comprehensive dissection of the ways in which Hollywood has, since the days of Sidney Poitier, given us archetypes of the black male hero: the Black Everyman, the Black Outlaw, the Black Provocateur, the Black Father, the Black Yoda, and the Black Messiah.
One explanation is simply imitation. The Ur-black techie was, of course, the original Mission Impossible's immortal Barney Collier, played by Greg Morris, who reprised the role in three episodes of the remade 1988 series (which featured his son Phil Morris, who, like Lumbly has also played Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onzz). Maybe Barney was so memorable that he imprinted Hollywood with a new casting stereotype, à la Louis Gossett Jr.'s Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman.