The American Movie Channel (AMC) took itself out of relative obscurity in 2010 when it released its original horror-drama series, “The Walking Dead.” Now in its sixth season, the show enjoys enormous popularity (it enjoys the highest total viewership of any series in cable television history).
Who would have guessed that a television show featuring flesh-eating zombies in an apocalyptic world would so captivate American television viewers? But the show has done just that.
My interest in the show however has nothing to do with its entertainment value. For me, the interest is sociopolitical. I see the show as a great metaphor describing the actual world we occupy.
Think about the image of blood-stained zombies who roam the country eating human flesh. More than a horror show concept, this reveals more truth about our society than we’d care to admit.
Observe closely in schools, the workplace, sports arenas, shopping malls, churches, community centers and just about every social space in our society.
You might think you’re witnessing human social interactions;
Well in some cases you are. But what if I told you that many of the people you see are part of the “walking dead” themselves? Zombies on the show have the anatomy of humans but:
- They have no concern for self-preservation: What do zombies (or “Walkers” as they are referred to on the show) do when you point a gun toward their head? They keep walking toward the gun!
- Zombies are motivated only by one thing – their appetite. They are not concerned with practical concerns like the weather, rest, their personal appearance or anything other than eating human flesh.
- Zombies on the show are not strategic or discerning, but impulsive. They move toward wherever they hear sound.
- Zombies are nomadic. You would think they might become hunter-gathers, set traps for humans or collect humans, to prevent having to roam countrysides aimlessly. Not zombies. Their underutilized brains simply don’t work like that.
In short, zombies don’t plan ahead, adapt to their surroundings, or act to defend and perserve their own existence. As such, they are much easier to confuse and defeat.
Can’t we say the same for humanity? Aren’t many of us seriously deficient when it comes to being strategic and critical, adapting to our sociopolitical surroundings, and working to protect and advance ourselves?
We members of the real-life “Walking Dead,” continue to spend our money with businesses that routinely disrespect us; Some of us in cannibalistic fashion consume (kill) one another over money or foolish interpretations of “territory” or status; Although we’ve been repeatedly victimized by trap after trap (drugs, diseases, community violence, imprisonment, miseducation, dysfunctional households, gang involvement) we don’t make the eradication of such things our national community priority. Instead, too many of us continue the cycle of ignorance, pain and failure….in effect, we walk right into the path of societal guns pointed squarely at us….
So the next time you watch “The Walking Dead,” remember that those zombies are not just figments of a screenwiter’s imagination. They exist – metaphorically – in our families and communities. And like their fictional counterparts, the only way to eliminate the walking dead in our communities is to sever/shoot their heads (eliminate their negative and self-defeating thinking).
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.