Okay, let me explain: I wrote a response in the MTV comment area because I thought the above article: “Does ‘The Walking Dead’ Really Have A Problem With Black Men?” was a needless torture of electrons, full of sound and fury signifying useless statistics, reporting nothing. While the article was relatively harmless and useless mind-candy, the comments section was a racist wonderland I sought to challenge the perspective of the hateful comments with some intelligent discourse.
My comments were removed in less than ten minutes: You can tell me if my comments were less viable than what was ALLOWED TO STAY. Racist BS is okay, but an intelligent challenge isn’t.
(In an act of total disclosure one of my fellow journalists did point out to me as I quietly raged, that MTV may have had nothing to do with my question being voted off the island. It could be the other commenters who experienced a moment of “white fragility” and thought my comment must die.
My initial ire about the incident cooled as I was putting this article up. I changed the title slightly to reflect my new knowledge but felt the resulting answer deserved to exist outside of the MTV comments section on its own merits.)
On An Issue of Agency
The Walking Dead fails because its Black Men lack “agency” — the power to choose their fates during the narrative flow of the story.
The failing of this article isn’t its attempt to use numbers to move the argument past just racial issues. Let’s assume it isn’t a reflexive knee-jerk rationalization using numbers to say the depiction of Black Men isn’t unfair or a form of poor representation. The failing of this argument is that it doesn’t address the real issue which the author alludes to in her final sentences.
“Why none of these characters have lasted seems (to MTV News, at least) to be more of a symptom of the fact that characters like Bob, Tyreese, and T-Dog never reached the maniac fan-favorite status of some of their Grimes Gang counterparts — though of course, the argument could be made that they might have, had they been given different material and more time to resonate with fans on the show.”
The issue and reason People of Color are calling out the Walking Dead is because of a “lack of agency” on the part of Black characters.
Agency, the ability to choose their fate is the missing ingredient in this conversation. While Daryl, Rick and to a lesser extent Michonne all get to choose their fates, make decisions that matter, even choosing for others is a power, few if any Black male characters have had the opportunity to address.
From the beatdown of Tyrese by Rick, to the eating of Bob’s leg and the Revolving Door incident with Noah, these Black characters REACTED to the world around them. They were never in charge of anything, not even their own fates most of the time.
The most pivotal choice T-Dog is given is his decision to save Carol’s life. Other than that, he was dull and lifeless, following the group without deciding anything. If his appearance is supposed to count for representation, until he gets to DO something, its the same as if he’s not there at all. “A difference, that isn’t a difference, isn’t a difference.” Being silent, waiting to be told what to do, remembering our place has been the mantra of People of Color since their arrival in this nation.
The Walking Dead wants to convince viewers by, allowing Blacks to appear on the show, in whatever format, as zombie chow, in a reduced statistical membership despite the location’s predominance of Blacks in the population, is little more than saying, “Shut up. You’re getting to show up. You can’t be in roles of leadership, too. If we were really exercising the authority we’d like to have, you wouldn’t be here at all. Shut up and be happy with showing up.”
All of the comments in this thread are saying exactly the same words whenever the “inequality of agency” is mentioned with a similar “shut up and be happy.”
If the casting of this show were exactly the opposite with Blacks in the leadership roles and whites playing the rotating cast, the show would be consider unrealistic and taken off the air after the first season, because Black people don’t possess leadership and heroic qualities like those.”
The irony of that statement would be lost on every Black Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine serving in the Armed Forces. After all we’re good enough to die to support your opportunity to stay ignorant of your privilege.
It’s a damn shame Whites can’t see it just how hypocritical that perspective is. We’re brave enough to die for you but not good enough for you to show us as heroic as you are.
I’m going to close with a quote from Chris Rock. I watched his video the other day and this quote slapped me in the face again:
“In my neighborhood, there are four Black people. Hundreds of houses, four Black people. Who are these Black people? Well, there’s me, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z and Eddie Murphy. Only Black people in the whole neighborhood. So let’s break it down, let’s break it down: me, I’m a decent comedian. I’m a’ight.
Mary J. Blige, one of the greatest R&B singers to ever walk the Earth. Jay-Z, one of the greatest rappers to ever live. Eddie Murphy, one of the funniest actors to ever, ever do it. Do you know what the White man who lives next door to me does for a living?
He’s a f**king dentist! He ain’t the best dentist in the world…he ain’t going to the Dental Hall of Fame…he don’t get plaques for getting rid of plaque. He’s just a yank-your-tooth-out dentist. See, the Black man gotta fly to get to somethin’ the White man can walk to!” — Kill the Messenger (2008)
Pretty much sums up this conversation doesn’t it.
Thaddeus Howze is a California-based technologist and author who has worked with computer technology since the 1980’s doing graphic design, computer science, programming, network administration and IT leadership.
His non-fiction work has appeared in numerous magazines: Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, Examiner.com, The Enemy, Panel & Frame, Science X, ComicsBeat.com, and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale.
Thaddeus is a popular and well-read writer on the Q&A site Quora.com in over various subjects. He is also a moderator and contributor to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange with over a fourteen hundred articles in a four year period.
He is an author and contributor at Scifiideas.com. His speculative fiction has appeared online at Medium.com, ScifiIdeas.com, and the Au Courant Press Journal. He has a wide collection of his work on his website, Hub City Blues. His recently published works can be found here. He also maintains a wide collection of his writing and editing work on Medium.