Tampa Bay Times writer wonders if there’s a quota on Black “The Walking Dead” characters, probably should have done his research first

Look, as an African-American, I understand the need to keep this issue under constant discussion. When creating t.v. shows, the powers-that-be truly need to appreciate that for a show to be successful, it should both include and accurately portray the racial diversity of its potential viewership.

That being said, it’s my opinion that the writer of this Tampa Bay Times piece should have done a bit more research before composing his article on the number of African-American cast members featured on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Yes, it does seem like that in order for a new African-American cast member to arrive, another has to die. If you look closely, however, it seems that way for the Caucasian actors as well – Dale was killed off early to more prominently feature Hershel (in the original story’s prison arc, it is Dale who loses his leg to a zombie bite, not Hershel).

The fact of the matter is that in the source material, the original The Walking Dead storyline, there aren’t that many African-Americans featured anyway. Not that the argument can’t be made that since AMC’s version of the story has taken certain creative liberties with casting – 1st season’s African-Americans T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott) were created solely for the series, as they do not exist in the graphic novel universe – they can cast more characters of color at their discretion. This is certainly true, and they’ve certainly done that. It’s just that had the writer of the Times piece picked up a book, hell, even just visited Wikipedia or The Walking Dead’s own Wikia page, he’d have been able to see that AMC has been very accommodating with casting actors of color on their mega hit series.

Perhaps the discussion may begin, then, on why more African-Americans were not featured in the source material, The Walking Dead graphic novels. The writer of the Times piece did bring up a good point that for a series based in Atlanta, which has more than its fair share of African-Americans, there is less-than-equitable representation. This may hold true for the television series, which tends to offer more of a peripheral view of the city than the books and thus had more of an opportunity to feature African-American zombies (though it’s hard to examine race when the extras are in face-decaying makeup).  However, in the print material, Rick Grimes‘ band of survivors travel often, starting in his small Kentucky town (where he encounters African-American father and son survivors, an act that was featured in season 1), moving on to a family reunion with Shane, Lori and Carl in Atlanta, and then on from there, where he meets Tyrese and his daughter Julie (BEFORE heading to the prison, I might add). In writing for a genre that isn’t known to be popular with mainstream African-Americans (zombie apocalypse), using a vehicle that isn’t known to be popular with mainstream African-Americans (comic books/graphic novels), it is my opinion that series creator Robert Kirkman did an excellent job in not only including African-Americans in his blockbuster series, but treating them with respect and care. I am up-to-date on the graphic novel series, and I have yet to encounter an African-American character who was not competent and capable, either on their own or working in tandem with Rick. The uselessness (my opinion) of T-Dog’s character was an invention of AMC show writers only. The fact that African-American characters have died in both the books and the show? It’s the zombie apocalypse, dude. We’re going to rack up our share of casualties, too.

With that said, while I do agree that this discussion needs to be had frequently, it is my opinion that any uninformed criticism of either AMC or Robert Kirkman for not including enough African-Americans during the zombie apocalypse simply needs to zombie shuffle on down the road.

It’s all probably a moot point. If you’ll remember this post, Key & Peele show why the zombie apocalypse probably won’t affect African-Americans anyway.