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by Thaddeus Howze

[Editor’s note: There’s been a lot of controversy over how The Walking Dead treats its non-white characters. While I was impressed with the number of people of color in the cast, they haven’t always survived the zombie apocalypse in heroic fashion. But everyone dies in a zombie apocalypse, you may say. I saw this essay going around on Facebook, with a knowledge of both the comic and the show, that explains how it may be a little different for the black men of The Walking Dead, and reprinted it with the author’s permission.

WARNING: Lots of spoilers!!!]

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My relationship with this show is over. I wanted to love it, but it kept telling me by virtue of its depiction of Black men, I wasn’t its “target” audience. I am a Black man who does not see himself represented well, if at all, on this show.

I have been a faithful watcher of the Walking Dead since the beginning. Part of that appeal had to do with the comic’s grim and unforgiving tone of a world where the dead walk the Earth, the living pray for death, while clinging fiercely to life. Their perspectives skewed by the unending bleakness of a world that will likely never resemble our own and still trying to maintain some degree of civility, some degree of their former humanity.

Oh what a delicate dance this is. And I was there for them. But then I noticed a few things, representative things I had trouble reconciling but would mentally gloss over for the sake of having new speculative fiction to watch.

Things such as: In the Deep South, particularly since this show was set in Atlanta, why was the cast almost entirely white? The American South has the densest population of Blacks in the United States. 60% of Atlanta is Black, but only two of the show’s running cast members are Black. And that number rarely rises beyond two without an immediate cut in numbers an episode or two later.

Having read the comic, I looked forward to Tyrese, a fierce and strong Black brother in the comics. Instead, I got the flavorless and bland T-dog. It wasn’t the actor’s fault. There was no script for him to do anything with. I tried to make due with T-dog but he never became the charismatic character Tyrese was. Then T-dog dies. I tried to feel bad for him but his death wasn’t a surprise.

He dies saving house-frau Carol who will later redeem herself (several times) and become a BOSS in the series, making hard choices, and impressing everyone with her will to survive, by any means necessary.

When a character named Tyrese does appear, he isn’t the man I was looking for. He was moral, centered, emotional and ill-suited for surviving the zombie apocalypse, aside from his incredible strength and strange penchant for using a hammer to kill zombies. (John Henry, symbolism?)

Instead of being a leader and taking charge as he does in the comics, Tyrese, who towers half a head and easily fifty pounds over Rick, takes a savage beat down from Rick instead and learns his place on the food chain. Right behind the strong Black women like Michonne and Sasha.

He will later play second fiddle to Carol when it comes time to handle a problem child. And he will play nursemaid to baby Judith for a time. The writers made him as weak and as inoffensive as possible and I noticed whenever he has a moment of awesome, it’s almost never on camera.

There are two instances where he is overrun by zombies and instead of succumbing, he fights his way clear with nothing but a hammer. Later, when he is locked outside the hut by the redneck, he kills all the zombies outside to protect the child inside.

What irked me about him wasn’t the depiction of his strength. It wasn’t his misplaced morality or his insistence on maintaining a moral framework in a world where such morality no longer has a place.

What irked me most was every time he would have a moment of awesome, where he would be fighting his way free of a crowd of zombies or when he was sent outside to die by the member of Terminus who held baby Judith hostage, his feats were unseen by the audience. Tyrese was never allowed to do what Michonne does, show his ability to protect the group. We are not privy to a singular feat of strength and capacity. He later dies a humbug death bitten by Noah’s reanimated brother. Michonne chops off his arm but he lacks the will to live, unlike the 70 year old Hershel who loses a leg to “rapid amputation” and survives.

To be fair, I wanted to say it was just a coincidence but the longer I watched the show, the more clear it became to me. Black men would not be giving an opportunity to be shown, on the screen, being Black, heroic or pivotal in any way. They would have to settle for being there without adequately representing any heroic characteristics in comparison to the pivotal characters of the show: Rick, Carol, Daryl, Andrea, Michonne and Glenn.

A number of faceless Black men come on and die during this period, barely getting any speaking lines before queuing up for as zombie chow or Governor chow.

Somewhere in here, I began to stop caring.

Bob Stookey shows up, a bland wanderer who gets a half-assed bit of a role, but is a weak-willed alcoholic who gets his comeuppance in an interaction with a flooded store, some liquor and zombie-bite sepsis. Literally, his death is precipitated upon his weakness and possible previous addiction for alcohol. For the moralists among you, this is akin to killing teenagers who are having sex in a slasher movie. A way to say: no — this is bad for you kids, don’t have sex, m’kay?

I didn’t care for the Bob, but he had a bit of potential for growth, after all he was a survivor, without a group, no less. He should have been able to be a contender. But he wasn’t. He had a decent run of about ten episodes. But he wasn’t around long enough for anyone to develop any feelings for him. His most notable feat was finding himself on the menu by the cannibals of Terminus. Is there symbolism in his being eaten? He died in bed and was knifed by Tyrese to prevent reanimation (of course he was.)

His replacement shows up as Noah. Young, idealistic, passionate, I thought maybe things were looking up. Here was the Black man who was going to turn the tide and give us a reason to cheer for them. After all, James Tyler Williams was a reasonably popular actor, I figured he would last a while. Noah is injured early on and spends a good portion of the series limping just slightly faster than the zombies behind him.

Noah, like Bob before him lasts only ten episodes before he too is killed. Noah dies one of the most horrific deaths, saving Nicholas who will later turn around, betray and try to kill Glenn. Noah dies getting eaten inside a revolving door. Graphically. Horrifically.

At this point, I’m disgusted with this show. Michonne has been showing up most of the characters of this show with a hard core, getting things done, chopping off zombie heads, arms and anything else that gets in her way, while still managing to retain a degree of humanity. She is seen bonding with Rick’s son and keeping the group on task, inspiring when necessary, leading by example and killing ten times her weight in zombies every week. She only weights a buck twenty and lays out man or zombie alike, without hesitation, sometimes killing two zombies with each swing of her katana.

While Sasha seems more like she is on a collision course with a self-imposed death, she has, in the meantime managed to fight, get things done and keep her crazy to herself, for the most part. Still more vigorous a character than most of the Black men depicted in this show thus far.

Then there is Father Gabriel. Nothing I say can reveal my utter contempt for this character. Spineless, weak, simpering, cowardly…you get the idea. He has betrayed the group more than once, tried to have them killed, nearly gotten them killed with his behavior, not an asset in any way, doesn’t pull his weight, won’t even kill zombies if he can help it, but is rumored to have left his parish to die by zombie. Ugh. Enough.

But I had one last hope. Morgan. Rumors of his return caused me to consider staying with the Walking Dead because he was reputed to be the Black Man we were waiting for. We meet him a couple of times briefly in the series and the first time he was moral, upright and still hopeful. The next time, much less so, but still grieving. His return shows him defending himself against some Wolves, quite effectively, walking a path of bushido, using no more force than necessary to protect his life. Willing even to part with his goods as long as no one got hurt.

I could admire this in principle. His meeting with Rick and the group was ill-timed but this was meant to contrast Morgan’s reverence for life with Rick’s now dedicated efforts to protect his extended family from every threat, real or perceived, with what most people believe is more violence than necessary.
Rick, in my opinion, has achieved peak apocalypse awareness. If it’s a threat, put a bullet it in. Perhaps a bit on the crazy side, but I can agree with most of his decisions, most of the time. Some people say Rick is the problem, bringing death and destruction with him in his wake.

Other say I am discounting the morality of the Black characters who seem to be holding onto their humanity and are thus, not weak; they are moral and in this case stronger than Rick and Carol [who] have lost any sense of right and wrong during this crisis.

When Rick takes the group to the Farm, Rick was the first to suggest it was not safe to be there. He didn’t cause the later destruction of the farm, Shane did by trying to kill Rick and Carl shooting Shane to protect Rick. The later incidents with the prison and the Governor were also incidents I could agree with Rick’s stand, so the idea that the Black characters were more moral than Rick holds no water to me. Morality doesn’t fight zombies. Morality makes shooting other people difficult, but most of the living people the crew ends up shooting, deserve to be shot.

The only moral quandary has been the people of Alexandra: A town of people cowering behind a fortification not knowing anything about the outside world. Rick’s solutions:
— People who don’t know how to fight? Train them.
— People who can’t shoot a gun? Teach them. Arm them.
— Hiding behind walls without sentries? Get a rifle and set up some lookouts.
— Surgeon’s a wifebeater? Tolerate him? Hell no. Throw him out, post-haste.

Rick and I would get along during the zombie apocalypse. I believe in dealing with threats when they are small and manageable. It’s my military training, I suspect. But I think my time with the Walking Dead is done.

Morgan’s behavior in the latest installment was uncharacteristic of a sane man, during a major crisis. Bushido does dictate using as little force as necessary to resolve a problem. But it has limits, too. As a former military person who has seen combat, I can understand Morgan NOT wanting to kill when it can be avoided. Killing is ugly and damages you in a way you don’t want to think about.

However, a real soldier understands when an enemy attacks you at home, kills those who are under your protection, honorable behavior (treating life as sacred) falls underneath the primary duty of protecting your group and ensuring an enemy never returns to be so bold again.

When Morgan sees the wolves hacking and chopping people apart, seeing no interaction for the sake of negotiation, he realizes they don’t have guns, this should have been an instant reaction to neutralize such a murderous threat, with the same sanction you would a rabid dog making a beeline for your only child; with extreme prejudice.

I am unsure why these writers continue to paint Black men in such a passive and uncommitted role instead of as men of action who recognize what needs to be done in this new world. Why keep painting them as people who can’t adjust to the world they are living in, unable to bring themselves to this new morality?

Actually, I do understand. It’s about keeping Black men from appearing effective in any circumstance possible, which explains why the most effective male characters die almost as soon as they arrive, while less effective ones linger, fail, undermine the story and take up precious screen time being WEAK, PITIFUL and PATHETIC shells of real men.

What’s with the Morgan on a chain scene? Was that really necessary? Was there subtext there? Does anyone here ever consider what they are doing while they are writing the scenes for this show? After Morgan’s awesome fight scene where he argues fruitlessly with homicidal maniacs who entered town by setting a man on fire, killed a dozen others with axes and knives and yet feels compelled to let them live, this for me was the last straw.

Others have tried to convince me this scene brought depth to the Morgan’s character because he didn’t kill the Wolves, he was struggling with his internal moral compass and this makes for compelling television. I say thee, nay! Any man this conflicted will be dead the first time he faces someone with a gun and a complete disregard for HIS life.

After that scene, I can only conclude three things:

(1) Carol will die. Likely by the hands of the Wolf who ran off with a gun.
(2) Morgan will leave unwilling to deal with the responsibility of shepherding such a violent group through the apocalypse or he will be killed in ten episodes or less. (Holding true to form so far.)
(3) Someone vital has to die to give that scene significance. There is a writers’s trope called Chekhov’s Gun. If you place a gun in a scene, you have to be prepared to use it as soon as possible. Otherwise the scene wasn’t necessary.

Carol, having been shown with more balls than most of the men in this show, started an older housewife whose husband was an abuser, has evolved into an action-directed, thinker, leader, and overall terrifying character when she wants to be, with little room left to develop, in my opinion. At this point, her balls are so large, they are starting to chafe. Homicidal? Perhaps, but surviving, just the same.

Her battle with the Wolves could be her swansong and while people would weep her passing, she would have had a complete heroic character arc worth of a Viking pass into Valhalla.

Alas, we can’t say the same for a single Black Male character on this show. Not one. As for Morgan: I had hoped for so much more, than this simpering little whiner they have given us. Yes, he has morality, just like T-dog. Just like Tyrese. Just like Bob. Just like Noah. And if history is any judge, his morality will be the death of him.

Perhaps it’s time for me to fold up my tent and go.

If you are a Black man watching this show, these Black men are inscrutable to you. No one you know acts the way they do. The writers, who are most assuredly white men, may want to imply the Black men we have seen to date are dying because they have retained their humanity, but in a world like this one, humanity is not a reasonable perspective.

When you try to be reasonable with unreasonable men, it’s the same as if you were trying to pour water uphill. It’s impossible and makes you look stupid. No sane Black man I know would be taking this perspective. We would fight for our right to survive, just as hard as Daryl, and Rick and Carol and Michonne.

But it’s clear, if you are a Black Man on this show, YOU ARE THE WALKING DEAD, it’s just a matter of time before your spiritual weakness, physical weakness, or your emotionally weakness results in your death.

And if your morality is intact, in a world without morals you may as well BE DEAD, because your humanity will count against you when you need to take an action which will keep you alive.

I can’t abide another episode of watching Black men being presented as ineffectual, moralistic idiots who don’t possess the will nor the skill to survive.
I’m out. This show is dead to me.

A response to the varied commentary:

When I first published this essay, there were many people who were telling me I shouldn’t be looking to television to find representative role models of heroic behavior. They also said, if I were looking for positive role models I shouldn’t be watching Empire, Scandal, BET, reality television or Sports or listening to rap because those forms of entertainment don’t depict Black people in a positive light either.

I don’t look to television to tell me how to be heroic. I am already well-versed in what it takes to be a good Black man and a hero in this modern world. Nor do I consume any of those media outlets or forms of media. No sports, no rap, no reality television, no negative depictions of people of color. The message such shows promote is a toxic one; serve and remain subservient, don’t aspire, consume, follow, protect assets that are not your own.
I am the quintessential American: Ex-military, hard-working, highly-educated, I am not confused about the role of Black men in American society for the last four hundred years. We have no role. And I recognize television will reinforce this perspective as long as people of color are not allowed to write on television, to create new media which is more accurately representative of how we think, feel and behave.

The models being presented are those created primarily by the white writers rooms whose staff is 78% men and 80% white. There shouldn’t be any mystery why television, not just The Walking Dead, has a love affair with strong Black Women and almost no roles for leading Black men. Television like history, wants as little to do with presenting strong black men unless they can make them subservient, weak, and unable to control their destiny, in the same fashion slavery did.

There will be plenty of people who will read this and say:

“I don’t know what this brother is talking about? Black men aren’t mistreated on television or in movies. They have roles as sidekicks, bartenders, wingmen and other supporting positions. People come to movies to see white heroes because the audience is mostly white.

The roles People of Color play are subservient roles because that is what our customers want to see (or the ones we have conditioned them to want). We are giving the customer what they want. If People of Color want roles as heroes, you have to wait until you have your own production companies before you can see this happen. Besides how we depict you has no effect on how your should see yourselves.”

If media didn’t affect people’s perspectives and choices why would Rupert Murdoch have spent billions on news services, newspapers and other media agencies? Why is Disney’s marketing machine one of the most powerful in the world?

If television has no effect on how people think, how they see themselves, how they perceive their roles in life and in relationship to other people, why is there a $600 billion dollar and growing advertising industry, eagerly buying up every second of air-time it can get on every platform it can find, television, cable, streaming services, smartphones and radio?

Because while White people don’t want to admit it, media is one of the most powerful mind-altering drugs on Earth. And in this drug of choice, being White is the best role anyone can have.

Because media matters. Because representation matters. Because perspectives matter. Because people seeing themselves in a positive light, in a heroic light, in a light which shows them achieving their dreams, fighting against impossible odds and winning (hell, even losing) can alter the perspective of a person, a child, an adult without hope, helping them to aspire to feats of greatness they might not have ever achieved without seeing such things.
Isn’t this why White media is always showing itself, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year as the savior of humanity, no matter what the threat: land, sea, air, space, future, past, at the center of the Earth, on the Moon, on Mars, in the distant future, lording it over the historical past? You paint the picture of the White man as the ultimate expression of good, power and mastery over everything else in nature. No problem that can’t be solved, no good that cannot be delivered.

So don’t tell me, media images don’t matter. Don’t bother telling me Morgan has had a decent arc so far and it can only get better. Because from where I sit, Black men have been emasculated, eviscerated, eaten, and disrespected pretty much since speculative fiction started being distributed in any form of media. Ever.

From Ben surviving Night of the Living Dead only to be shot by the police the following day, to watching the Walking Dead, nearly fifty years later, nothing has changed. There is no future that welcomes Black men.

And I don’t expect it to get any better, any time soon.

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, Science X and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale. He is a contributor at The Enemy, a nonfiction literary publication out of Los Angeles. His work can be read on his website Hub City Blues.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Over-Reaction. Plain and simple.

    I wouldn’t presume to tell this person that his views are incorrect, but I don’t agree with his opinion about the underlying reason for why he’s unsatisfied with black male characters on The Walking Dead television show. Other characters have had their stories changed for the show in addition to Tyreese. This show follows one group of people in one part of a very large country. There is no conspicuous absence of black people because groups formed under cataclysmic situations don’t necessarily follow demographic data. “60% of Atlanta is Black” along with the level of overall blackness of the entire south are somewhat irrelevant as evidence of an entire demographic being short-changed due to my specific rebuttal above along with Atlanta itself having been proven to now be 99% zombie by both the show and the comic.

    The Walking Dead is a specific show about a specific group of people in a specific place and time. I would argue that the show has been better at giving us more complex characters regardless of skin color or gender, and that when you involve actors in the process, their presence dictates change due to their personalities, their input, and their desire to book other jobs. I, too, do not agree with every choice that has been made in regard to character and story on the show. Sometimes there is no elephant in the room.

    Every character on almost every show is a stereotype that has been tweaked, twisted, flipped, cleverly disguised, or wholly embraced in order to tell the story the show runners want to tell.

    “Black men have been emasculated, eviscerated, eaten, and disrespected pretty much since speculative fiction started being distributed in any form of media. Ever.”

    It’s not exclusive to black men, sir. That has happened to pretty much everyone. That’s the great thing about speculative fiction. You can write whatever the hell you want for whatever reason. Everyone is fair game. Also, the only color “media” cares about is green.

    That’s what I like about South Park, by the way. Everyone is fair game. Even when they make fun of stuff I like I don’t have a problem with it. Nothing is sacred. Except M*******.

    So The Walking Dead isn’t exactly what you wanted…I get that. I get that it annoys you so much that you don’t want to watch it anymore. I don’t agree with the reasons you’ve indicated in your rant. To each their own.

    Have fun watching something else.

  2. Sounds like a bunch of whining about nothing. Bye Felicia! I guess you’d rather see gang bangers in Atlanta with their guns turned sideways shooting zombies with bling in their teeth to make it more representative of ‘black culture’ in a zombie apocalypse.

    TWD has gave us great, amazing black characters, and if you ever followed the comic you would know that they were some of the most important characters in the entire series. Michonne is amazing. Tyreese is amazing. The Priest is amazing because of his conflict with faith and real life. Morgan is a bad ass.

    But hey, at the end of this episode, all the white privileged zombie apocalypse survivors died. You’re welcome.

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  6. As an educated, socially-aware white male, I completely agree with the views in this essay. There is a strain of toxic representation that goes back to the first season, when they chose to name the black male T-Dog, as if Blackness is only recognizable according to our ideas of urban culture. Or what about the introduction of Michonne as a sword-wielding, magical negress whose duty is to protect the white woman? Or later, when she is a bargaining chip in a power struggle between a while male named The Governor and a white male southern deputy? The writers have since expanded upon her character, but let’s consider this:

    In the comic, her beef with the Governor comes from being brutally raped and beaten by him. In the television show, that dynamic is replaced by the the mere threat of rape against a white woman.

    And he’s right about accurate representation: statistically, there would be more black survivors than white. Replace Rick and Daryl with black men, then replace Bob, Noah, etc with white men… nevermind, you probably wouldn’t be watching show with a mostly black cast, would you.

    Thaddeus Howze is unequivocally on point in his reading of the show. If you disagree, ask yourself: am I white? Then you’re already approaching it wrong.

  7. There was a time when if you didn’t like something, you didn’t listen to/read/watch it. If there was a line crossed, you could boycott, write letters, or protest it in some form. Now if you don’t feel “represented” you go to social media and demand that changes be made because you personally don’t like it. I feel that there is way too much of that going on involving entertainment these days.

  8. As a White Brit, it seems like race is projected onto everything in the US – and from outside looking in (and have been to the US) I understand why… but I really don’t see it here other than perhaps in trying to break stereo types – where else is there a Carol in TV or film?

    I always find you can test the validity of a theory by reversing it – so lets do that. Why not ask “what would the walking dead look like if a bunch of white red neck republicans were writing the script”? Could the shows version of Tyrese exist in _their_ mind? A black male who risks everything to protect someone else’s baby, but is naturally non-violent and the most moral character in the show? No – I can’t see that at all. Would the main moral voice of the show come from the black/non-white male characters in the show (post Dale being bitten) – i.e. Glenn and Tyrese?

    Would Bob be their go to depicition of a black male, or Morgan or Gabriel or Noah? These are so non-stereo-typical, which makes them interesting and actually real – if not a statistically representative slice of a demographic. What about Sasha and Michonne as that of black women?

    What if Rick was black? In his descent to animalism, biting out the neck of an assailant or executing Pete would people be projecting race onto this too? Would Rick be the black male without a moral compass that middle class white republicans fear when walking home at night? Maybe there is racism at play here – maybe the show is sensitive to creating a black male stereotype – i.e. gun welding amoral thug. Maybe…

    These are interesting questions…. and I don’t claim to know the answer. But I do feel that race gets projected onto everything in a way that makes it paradoxically impossible not to be racist unless you are actually racist. By that I mean, if you spend the entire time when writing a story trying to consider what is racially representative – that is, in itself, racist by definition. This is a story about people who happen to have a certain gender or race or sexual persuassion. The world is, by definition, full of deviation from the mean events, otherwise its a highly contrived story.

    We all know that TV programmes are aimed at what they think is their demographic – which in this case was originally presumably the comic book crowd – which I perceive to be white male nerds/geeks. It’s a pity that they couldn’t have made another core character black at the start – I think it couldn’t be Rick for reasons I stated above so Daryl maybe would be obvious since he wasn’t in the comics (but then, would Merle have been an example of a negative black character? Indeed would Daryll from where he started from).

    I do agree that so far in the series, we haven’t seen strong black _male_ leadership. We now have it in Morgan – a bad ass as well as the new moral compass of the group. I do know that I have really enjoyed watching Bob, Noah and Tyrese and I wish they were still in the programme – particularly Tyrese. I’m a father of 3 young kids and if I was leaving my kids with someone – it wouldn’t be Rick or Glenn or Dayrll or Michonne and definitely NOT Carol – it would be Tyrese. I think killing him off was the show’s one big mistake.

  9. I don’t see any “demands” here. Instead, I see a profoundly honest description of what Mr. Howze finds offensive on a television show he wanted to like.

    If you don’t wish to consider his point of view, that is your privilege. No one is taking away your WALKING DEAD.

    For myself, I stopped watching last season, when I thought the stories (and characters) became too repetitive. These included racial stereotypes, but much more so gender stereotypes, and all sorts of other things that, quite frankly, were boring.

  10. As a black woman who’s actually an avid fan of the show I will say this. You certainly have your strong points about the lack of screen time given to black men on the show. This is actually something I’ve pointed out myself plenty of times but as much as I support alot of what your saying I will have to say this in the show’s defense.

    Many of the gripes you have about the show’s depiction of black men is actually coming off as a lot of over-reading and outlandish reaching. Tyrese was possibly one of the most beloved and greatly acted characters on the show. Yes, even I had to call BS on Rick’s takedown of him back in season 3, but I attribute that to Rick’s shield of being the main character. Also, here’s the positive of his character that you left out in your negative rant. I was actually relieved to see a black male character who showed a deeply caring, nurturing, and protective role for children, especially children who weren’t his, which contrasts completely with the image the media likes to portray of “the deadbeat black daddy” stereotype. It was really refreshing to see that. Did I think they made him soft? Yes, but can you actually say that it would have looked great for a big, hulking black man to have been the one to shoot down a little white girl on national TV? Even if the show went out of its way to depict he would have been justified in doing so? Tyrese was a far cry from his comic book counterpart but I don’t think that made his TV character weak or spineless and his death was truly heartbreaking and sad.

    T-Dog’s characterization was weak but even he had his shining moments. Such as his famous rant about how he was very aware that black men like him didn’t last in scenarios such as the show’s setting and when he was revealed to be a man of faith enough to sacrifice himself for Carol. In regards to Bob, honestly I didn’t care for this character, but I wouldn’t have cared for him, no matter what race he was. As for Father Gabriel, another character I don’t care for, but the show does seem to be setting him up for a great redemption arc, only time will tell however.

    In regards to Morgan, I like his characterization in the show better than the comic where he was just a raving lunatic that was hooking up with Michonne. Is his pacifism becoming frustrating? Yes, but I think he’s being set up as a foil to Rick who at this point is killing Willy nilly and nowhere near the individual he started out on the show to be. At the end of the day, almost every demographic had a gripe about the show. Like how earlier in the series feminist complained about how all the white female characters were useless and nothing more than eye candy. How a religious character like Hershel was stubborn to the point of stupidity in his initial introduction. My BF, who is Hispanic, often points out that at least black women and men are getting screen time. There hasn’t been a strong representation of any Hispanic males in the entire shows run. At least one that wasn’t villainous or disappeared after their intro. The list can go on.

    I still like the show and I know plenty of people of color who still do and still like the very characters you bashed. I highly doubt the writers on the show are going out of their way to offend anyone and just want to do a good show. I respect your perspective, and hopefully your respect my points as well.

  11. I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but I am so sick and tired of everything being racist! Enough is enough. It seems to me that there are way too many people in this country who look for racism in everything. Racism does exist but its not one sided. There are racists of every culture and race. I can point out hundreds of racist rap songs and black movies and TV shows. In fact in today’s day and age it is a handicap to be white. I see past skin color and believe we are all of one race, the human race. I am so tired of people in this country trying to keep us divided. Get over it!

  12. I’ve also stopped watching frustrated with the representation of Black Males on the show the Walking Dead also thank you for your opinion in expressing something only those that are progressive intellectually can converse on tough topics.

  13. When I read the title of the posting my first thought was ‘jeeesus, it’s just a tv show!’ but as I continued to read, he does an excellent job of pointing out the irritating habits of television in the U.S. There is a deeply-ingrained default in the entertainment industry of how characters of colors are cast and written for. I honestly dont think it’s by design, it’s just a very bad habit that keeps finding new life. I think Mr. Howze does an excellent job of illustrating these issues in a very specific manner.
    Basically: He’s right on target.
    I was also in agreement about the lack of representation from the Hispanic/Latino community. I keep waiting to see other people of color, aside from Glen, who survived the apocalypse. Fear the Walking Dead addressed this but I know a lot of Mexican Americans who live all over the country so I have to assume that more than a few would survive the apocalypse.
    Hopefully, Mr. Howze has triggered some sort of conversation within the Kirkman camp about this.

  14. The easiest way to dismiss something is to try and turn it around to make it sound like what it’s not and that is a clear sign of willingness to allow racist stereotypes to continue. Claiming to be a Black or White person doesn’t add more credibility to your point of view, it’s still just a point of view.

    At the end of the day I tip my hat to Mr. Howze for openly expressing his opinions on a topic despite knowing that it would bring out trolls of all kinds as well those who are so set in their own sense of self-righteousness that they blatantly contradict themselves. This was a very interesting article read and the comments if anything show how and why racial stereotypes keep going.

    “In fact in today’s day and age it is a handicap to be white. ” In that statement alone it shows a belief that your skin tone plays role in lowering ones standing in life and that the writer believes this to be true. Then the writer follows up with, “I see past skin color and believe we are all of one race, the human race. I am so tired of people in this country trying to keep us divided. Get over it!” Actually Pat, no you don’t see past skin color or believe everyone is equal, what you do believe is that people are being more vocal about racial injustice and it causing you to feel guilty because your belong in the same group that people are talking about on the internet. And so you write your pseudo statement to help you vent and feel better, When in reality it just shows a mental block to listening to the pains, problems, and issues that other people have because it makes you feel uncomfortable and it should. So the person who needs to get over it is you, Pat. You need to get over you sense of feeling uncomfortable so that you and people like you can actually care about the the thoughts and opinions of others.

    I also find it humorous how a “White Brit” can write about looking at racism from the outside as if there isn’t a racial problem in the UK that he can’t relate to. “We all know that TV programmes are aimed at what they think is their demographic – which in this case was originally presumably the comic book crowd – which I perceive to be white male nerds/geeks.” So this insightful person openly admits to holding a strong stereotypical belief that Non-white males don’t buy comics… You’re funny.

    If someone feels offended by the content of a show and writes a thought provoking article explaining his or her beliefs behind it then its is not an “Over-Reaction. Plain and simple.” It’s a topic that resonates so deeply with the writer that leads to action, resulting in a well written article to give food for thought. There’s no demand for the show to change and if fact this type of commentary is highly valuable for show produces because it could help them tap into markets that are under represented which would not only enhance sells but generate a positive and long overdue change in media. Then to follow up his statement, ” I wouldn’t presume to tell this person that his views are incorrect…” You just did, “Plain and simple.” So many contradictions, I don’t even have time.

  15. Walking dead was very good and well made for the first and second seasons. After that it was just not that great anymore. Yes there were small parts that I liked as far as action. But it doesn’t have the same feel to it like season one and two. As far as black characters of the show, I think Michonne should take the lead over Rick. She has great fighting skills and knows how to deal with those walkers, but they have Rick as leader of the group? Michonne is always looking at Rick to give the last word. Michonne needs to think for here self. She is very smart and don’t need Rick for answers.

  16. I can appreciate your views and case, but i disagree completely. I’d like to offer another perspective. We, as a conditioned TV audience that has seen racial stereotypes for decades, expect “the angry black man”. We assume the character should have a gun and be “from the hood”. We assume they’ll be a former football star, or the comedic relief. This is every stereotype that most TV shows play into still. The Walking Dead went a different way. I think they’re staying away from showing the black characters in ways that can be interpreted as negative stereotypes. And lets be honest…every crazy person in this show, every cult member and “monster” human is a white guy or girl. Has there been a person of color who’s a bad guy? Is that realistic? Probably not, but we’re in a place right now where that’s how it needs to be and that’s fine.

    What we have are layered multi faceted characters who are intelligent and thoughtful. Real people who use their brains to solve problems, have moral crisises and seem grounded in reality. Tyrese had one of the most heroic moments of the entire series when he defended Judith single handedly. I always viewed him as a strong man with a good heart, who knew how to restrain himself. This is a positive role model. We don’t need any more angry black men on TV. Not showing him kill the zombies was powerful filmmaking. We didn’t need to see it to understand what he did or to see his strength. While characters like Rick and Carol are losing their humanity with each episode, characters like Tyrese never did. They made his one of the most memorable zombie kills of the entire series for a reason…it was special. Showing him going berserk with epic kills, splattering blood everywhere would have been expected and forgettable and it isn’t helping change stereotypes. Would you rather have seen another violent and angry black man on tv, covered in blood and holding a gun?

    Also, Rick is a terrible father, who could give a crap about his own baby. Judith is a burden that he seldom attends to and when he does, he’s always focused on something else. They have less than 2 minutes of screen time together over the course of the entire series at best. Tyrese was much more of a father to Judith that Rick ever has been. Showing a black man stepping up, and taking care of a child…showing love, worry, concern, protection…being a real father and not another “baby daddy” with real dimension is a positive portrayal.

    We’re getting to the point with our constant cries for diversity where we don’t even want nuance or thought put into characters. We just want an extreme, all or nothing in a stupid zero sum game. I don’t agree with that.

  17. OK, just a side note about casting for shows-regardless of color and or gender: When the entire cast or at least 75% is beautiful, that’s a failure on my check list. Apparently only beautiful people can be heroes, survive any apocalypse or be interesting.

  18. No wonder white people love this show so much! Like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” they can’t get enough of it.

  19. Cliff, This ran here on Sunday so nyahhhhhh. And it ran on Medium and FB before that.

    My childish razzberry aside, this piece has drawn incredibly thoughtful responses, and for that I am very grateful. This is the kind of intelligent discourse one longs to have on the internet, and thanks to Mr. Howze for letting us spread his message further.

  20. No you are right. The black people in this show are not represented accurately. They would be those ones running around committing the worst type of crimes, just like in civilized society. And if you want to try and defend against my statement ill just remind you of all the buring and looting they do at every “protest”.

  21. @Fenix: “non-white males don’t buy comics” is not at all what I said, and if you try to reduce things to black and white then your mental model isn’t sufficiently complex to describe the issues.

    As a one-time marketing analyst, I can tell you that of course anyone can buy anything, but the group that is targeted are the demographics that buys the MOST of something – what drives the bottom line? In this case – viewers. The stereotype is borne out by the data – if you go dig you will see this – they usually are.

    The truth is that all commercial media (TV, Films, Books, Reporting) are essentially implicitly racist, sexist and genderist because they all have a demographic that they explicitly aim to be attractive to. The point is, do they go further than that and instead of just catering for one specific group to maximise sales – do they actively exclude or marginalise others explicitly?

    You are right that anyone can be offended and write an article – but then others can disagree and explain why they don’t feel many of the points are valid… just as I have.

  22. Shalom, I Agree with the brother 100% only person that would disagree and ridicule this article is other races (Mostly “White” folks ) and a Slave minded-Negro. Black men are never betrayed as an heroic leader, they show him to have the physical strength and the weak mind. This is called the Willie lynch syndrome. Do your research.

    Even though they have zombies and action the show wasn’t meant to entertain us black people it was meant to entertain “white folks”. If black people watch this show without having any knowledge of self they will be brainwashed. As black,Hispanic, and Native American men we need learn our true history; which is the bible. Christ isn’t a white man he’s black (Daniel 10:5,6 & Revelation 1:14,15) the only book the depict us as leaders and problem solvers. The slave trade is prophetic ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE & 1492 Conquest : (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) also the Sub-Saharan Slave Trade (Joel 3:1-5).

    The bible is the only restoration of us being the rightful leaders like we were born to be.Shalom

    Visit our YouTube channel IUICINTHECLASSROOM for more details…

  23. Dumb. First it is pretend. Second, we have complained about diversity. This show has that at least when it comes to black characters. We have complained about being portrayed as robbers, drug dealers and criminals, so it is actually refreshing that they have some morality. And lastly, this has hints of sexism in you assessment of the show. You cant be proud of the strong sistahs? Can we get some support?

  24. As a Black male, I believe this Article is on point. It simply states facts about every black male character on the show. Any black male who watches this show notices the trend. Should we be satisfied with characters that make us look soft, submissive, weak, cowardly, unable to lead, and even thuggish (T-Dog). Like 99% of the shows on TV, the heroic leader black male is nonexistent. I understand that most people are ok with that but as a black male I have a right to object.

    If we were to switch all the white and black characters, how do you think people would react? A black male leading a diverse team of wanderers, who’s toughest members are both black males. This leader continually runs into other black males leading their own independent towns. Towns where there are black females who play important roles in running the towns. Does this seem like a show America would watch to you?

  25. You are spot on about The Walking Dead! You are way off on you final comment about Night of the Living Dead. Representations of black men has not remained unchanged. Night of the Living Dead offered glimmer of light, but we have massively slipped backwards since. Ben is exactly the type of character you are looking for in The Walking Dead.

    The moment when Ben dies at the end of the film, is one of the most traumatic moments in horror film history, because it is senseless, unexpected and unwarranted. We care because Ben DESERVED to live. Ben was a natural leader who created thoughtful strategies. Ben alone SURVIVED the living dead, not because he was emotionless or callous, or a brawny thug, but because he was smart and considered in his actions.

  26. Good article, people pretend to not know how we interpret what we watch on television. But the walking dead should probably the last show to be criticized for its terrible portray of black male characters. The walking dead is actually very unstereotypical when it comes to casting and character development. Did you know that Noah and several other recurring black characters were not even black in the original script? Has there been any African-American villains so far? Can you find another Glenn and Carol in any other shows?

  27. Dear Pat: I’m sick and tired of people like you trying to avoid race by falsely claiming you see past color. Either you are blind, in DEEP DENIAL, or it’s your way of avoiding talking about race, because it will mean talking about your inherent racism!! I don’t want you to see past my color!! For in telling me you don’t see my color, you are essentially saying you don’t see me!!! That, in itself, is insulting!! Does my color hurt your eyes!! What possible morality are you referring to when you say you don’t see color? What award are you seeking with such a statement? KNOW THIS!! I, and the bast majority of People of Color want you see our color; and to recognize it, and appreciate it for the beauty that it is, instead avoiding it like it’s the plague!!! So get off your fake, moral, high horse, and join the people of the world, the majority of whom are People of Color, and be a part of Humanity, instead of being White and Privileged, and above it all!!

  28. Wow, I can some of the things you said, but Morgan is the most down to earth, peaceful and level headed one on the show his character is a force to be reckoned with. I really think he will be the one to take out Negan. Try not to see hate in everything, before you know it life is over, try to the the human race with it’s flaws and all. Peace and love to you and yours.

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