The Walking Dead: The apocalypse is inclusive


There have been jokes about The Walking Dead and race and race is a hot topic with The Oscars. I’d like to open a wider discussion about racial issues and The Walking Dead.

Let me first say, if you are a person who is sick of race issues and already has a comment formed in your head about the topic before reading, please just exit out. This article is not for you.

This discussion is for people who already have open minds about racial issues, but maybe want to consider things in a new way and learn something. I want to learn something. I don’t have the answers. I have a few things to consider.

I was a teacher in a very diverse school and I hated the word diversity. It was the first word used when people were asked what they loved about the school. But what did they mean? And why did they love it?

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Just yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times where Ana DuVernay said she hated the word diversity. When asked what words she would rather use, she gave inclusion and belonging.

I loved that! Diversity in its etymology suggests difference and divide. That’s not what we want. We want to feel like we belong. That’s what my students always wanted.

One of the things I did for my students that was very subtle, but very helpful, was that from day one, I used multicultural images of students in my power points when showing the students my expectations or when showing images for vocabulary words (I taught Spanish).

It wasn’t difficult to do, but I believe it made a big difference in how my students felt. They felt like they belonged. They were included in the landscape of the lessons.

If I had not done that, it doesn’t make me racist. I still might have treated my students of color fairly. But I wouldn’t have been including them in the same way.

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People tease that The Walking Dead is racist to kill off the black characters. I say, that’s not necessarily true. To make it racist, I think they would have to consciously say, let’s kill this character because we don’t like black people or we don’t want too many black characters at the same time.

I don’t think that’s true. I do think that the black audience is longing to feel included in the landscape of the apocalypse. I think they want to see more black walkers and they want to see great and accurate representations of themselves on screen.

If there are any lacking representations there, I would suggest it’s not the fault of racism, but of not thinking about it. Not realizing when looking for a bunch of walkers, they just don’t consciously think about it the way I had to consciously think sometimes that I had too many girl pictures or too many white pictures.

On the other hand, I applaud them for not consciously thinking about it when they had Father Gabriel, Michonne, Bob, Sasha and Rick go to the food pantry.  They didn’t think there were too many black characters on screen. And I don’t think the audience paid attention either.

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I feel bad sometimes for Scott Gimple and Gale Anne Hurd when they feel the need to defend the race questions. Their answers have included the idea that some characters that they knew ahead of time were scheduled to die and were white in the comics, they cast with black actors because they loved the actors.

While their answers and the interrogation in general makes everything sound too defensive, the answer does show a sense of inclusion and belonging of black actors and characters in The Walking Dead family.

Back to my original thoughts about word choice. I think The Walking Dead is a great family. Part of what makes it such a great family is NOT its diversity. It is its inclusion! People from all walks of life in the show and in the fandom feel included. We feel like we belong! 

I fully expect disagreement with me on many levels. Id love to hear anything that helps me understand racial points of view better or adds to a productive discussion.

Next: A Walking Dead Timeline

One last point I’d like to make is that I’m glad we’ve come to a point in time when black people can disagree with each other about important race issues in public and civilly.  It means the issues have become less monolithic just like your people.