Comics & Graphic Novels Television

The Walking Dead’s Ongoing Black Man Problem

I wrote in one post during The Nerds of Color’s Walker Week that The Walking Dead is noteworthy for depicting one of the most racially diverse zombie survivor casts to-date: it features a band of survivors that has included (among others) a Mexican family, an Asian Indian doctor, two Deep South “rednecks” (a pejorative term that the Dixon brothers would probably enthusiastically reclaim), a samurai-sword-wielding Black woman, and one of the most progressive characterizations of an Asian man on television. This is a show where women kick ass just as readily as men, and where the divisions of race and class have largely disintegrated in the face of humanity’s near-annihilation.

It’s ironic, therefore, that The Walking Dead could have such a blatant “Black Man problem,” one so obvious it has spawned a million memes.

(This post contains spoilers of all events in The Walking Dead up to Season 4, Episode 3. Please read on with care.)

Since the first season of The Walking Dead, the show has faced criticism for situating a band of survivors in the outskirts of Atlanta — a city that is majority African American — yet failing to highlight Black characters. In the first season, only two Black characters were depicted — Morgan and T-Dog — both men and neither received significant screen-time. Earlier this month, I noted how the invisibility of Black skin on The Walking Dead even extends to the show’s zombie extras when I asked: where are all the zombies of color?

More specifically, The Walking Dead‘s “Black Man Problem” is a repeated inability to depict more that one ass-kicking Black man at a time.

For 3 seasons, T-Dog was the only Black man alive.
For three seasons, T-Dog was the only Black man alive.

After three seasons, this weird pattern borders on the comedic cliche and show in-joke: a central Black male character can only be introduced if the show’s previous Black man is bumped off, a pattern I (and others) have dubbed the “One Black Man at a Time” rule. The Rule has come into effect no less than three times over the course of The Walking Dead:

No small feat.
No small feat.

1) In the first episode, Rick (having just woken from a coma) is saved by Morgan, a neighbour in his suburban community and a newly-widowed single father. Morgan tells Rick about the zombie apocalypse and helps arm him, but at the end of the episode is left behind when Rick ventures off in search of his wife and son. Only with Morgan conveniently written off are we  introduced to T-Dog.

Thankfully, T-Dog was spared with the Season 2 introduction of Michonne.
Thankfully, T-Dog was spared with the Season 2 introduction of Michonne, because he was still the lone Black man.

2) T-Dog is the only surviving Black man in the group led by Shane, and pitches in as one of the community’s resident muscle. While neither particularly good at shooting a rifle nor beating people up with his fists, he is competent in both areas, and manages to survive for the subsequent three seasons — until in Season 3, when he is killed saving Carol. In this same episode, Oscar (who was introduced previously as a peripheral character forced to live in another part of the Prison) is invited to join the main survival group led by Rick.

One to rule them all.
One to rule them all.

3) Oscar is a surviving prisoner who refuses to help his fellow prisoners claim the Prison cellblocks from Rick and his survivors, choosing instead to shoot his own friends. After joining the group along with Axel, the other surviving prisoner who is integrated into the group, he supersedes T-Dog in serving as the group’s resident muscle. He is killed in the attack against Woodbury, in roughly the same episode that Tyreese (introduced earlier in the season) betrays the Governor and sides with Rick’s group. This opens things up for Tyreese to be invited to join the Prison community.

There wasn't enough room for both Oscar and Tyreese in the same show.
There wasn’t enough room for both Oscar and Tyreese in the same show.

So, let’s recap: Rick’s group inducts three Black men in the form of T-Dog to Oscar to Tyreese — with no overlapping membership in between. Feeling insecure, are we, Rick?

The fact that this meme needs no explanation says it all.
The fact that this meme needs no explanation says it all.

(Also, an honorable mention entry: in one Season 3 episode, Rick and Carl venture off with Michonne to forage Rick’s old police precinct; there they encounter a deranged Morgan who has since the first episode lost his son to the Walkers. In this second Morgan-centric episode, the episode is conveniently written so no other Black men are anywhere in sight.)

Poor T-Dog.
Poor T-Dog.

In the start of Season 4, The Walking Dead producers attempted to rectify this problem with the introduction of Laurence Gilliard Jr. as the racially cross-cast character, Bob Stookey (a character whose similarities with his comic book inspiration appear to extend only to the name and a struggle with alcoholism). This would seem to be the solution we were all looking for, right?

Unfortunately, probably not.

Bob Stookey as he appears in the comics (left) and in the show (right).
Bob Stookey as he appears in the comics (left) and Laurence Gilliard Jr. as D’Angelo Barksdale on The Wire (right).

While Bob Stookey’s character is a refreshing change from the muscular, physically capable Black male trope of seasons past — T-Dog, Oscar, and Tyreese — the show has also taken great pains to emphasize Stookey’s general incompetence. In the first episode of Season 4, Stookey is taken along with some other survivors to forage a virtually untouched grocery store; there, they are ambushed by Walkers and Stookey is pinned beneath some toppled alcohol displays (oh, the irony!) and must be saved by his compatriots. In episode 3 of Season 4, Michonne and Daryl are discussing whom they will take on their mission to get medical supplies from a local clinic; they virtually dismiss Stookey as a candidate, and instead immediately jump to the idea of bringing Tyreese, even though their requirements for inclusion on the mission at the time are “anyone not showing signs of the infection” (which includes Stookey). Later, Stookey is brought along, but explicitly only because of his ability to read big words. When the band of survivors are ambushed by the Walker megahorde, Stookey defends himself with his gun (just barely), but his lack of physical prowess is contrasted against that of Tyreese who (as I noted in my recap) goes all Oldboy on the Walkers in the same scene.

In short, even though we now have two Black men on The Walking Dead, we still have only one conventionally masculine, powerful Black man in the character of Tyreese. While our second Black man diversifies the image of Black men in The Walking Dead universe — not everyone must be a poor man’s Luke Cage stereotype — the fact that Stookey is barely capable of doing anything more than read still leaves the depiction of Black men on the show woefully unempowered and wanting: there’s still no room for two Black men with any sort of power or agency on the show.

Furthermore, the fact that all the strong Black men in the show are still expressly depicted as physically inferior to our White male protagonist — in two separate scenes in two separate episodes, Rick subdues a hysterical Morgan and a hysterical Tyreese with his fists — results in the show remaining little more than a regressive and problematic reinforcement of existing White male power fantasies over Black masculinity.

Again, I say: all this scene needed was some nightsticks.
Again, I say: all this scene needed was some nightsticks.

Certainly, the introduction of Stookey has done little to challenge the “One Black Man at a Time” Rule: we are still only allowed to have one physically dominant Black man at a time in Rick’s survivor community.

In summary (and with much love to Laurence Gilliard, Jr): Bob Stookey, you're kinda sucking right now.
In summary (and with much love to Laurence Gilliard, Jr): Bob Stookey, you’re kinda sucking right now.

All that being said, two things are true: 1) we’ve had less than three hours worth of episodes with Bob Stookey’s character (and one in which he was pretty much absent), and so we don’t have any idea where his character is going. It’s possible that Stookey will become more capable and less of a resource drain with time. And, 2) the problems with the show are partially symptoms of the problems with its inspiration — the comic book. While many minority characters in The Walking Dead comic by Robert Kirkman are progressive, Tyreese (and a similar character, named Tyrone, who may have inspired the characters of T-Dog and Oscar) are both brutish Black men who originated in the books. To be fair, Chad Coleman’s Tyreese is pretty true to his comic book counterpart, even if it results in some pretty damning stereotyping on-screen.

This IS the dude who nonchalantly offed an entire cafeteria's worth of Walkers by himself.
This IS the dude who nonchalantly offed an entire cafeteria’s worth of Walkers by himself.

Again, only time will tell if The Walking Dead has more to say on its “Black Man” problem. But, right now, things are looking pretty dim.


  1. You are a fucking idiot..over analizing things trying to take a perfactly good show and make it into a black and white thing. Its assholes like you that keep things devided. If you don’t like the black white racio of the show than don’t watch it. I’m sure if tyler perry wrote the show he would have an all black cast…but he diddnt so deal with it or don’t fucking watch….michonne is the most awesome character on the show and she’s. Black….have anything else to say….thought so!


    1. Hi Johnny Faethers,

      Thanks for your comment and sorry you feel that way about this post. I hope you can see from this and other writing that it’s not about making it a “black and white thing”, it’s that race is inextricably a part of this and all forms of media in America. The treatment of race on this show isn’t substantially different from how race is treated in most other forms of mainstream media. Why should people of colour be expected to abstain from this and other pop culture projects, or accept arguably offensive stereotyping?

      If Tyler Perry made The Walking Dead, it would be terrible, but mainly because Tyler Perry doesn’t do serious adventure/sci fi thrillers; it would be a criminally bad genre mismatch.

      Michonne is an awesome character, but that doesn’t invalidate the criticism I have of The Walking Dead in regards to Black masculinity.

      That being said, thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to your additional thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tyler Perry can’t write. That’s it period. You want to talk about perpetuating negative stereotypes and exploiting a culture, you don’t have to look further than Mr Perry. Talk about using race, that’s Perry’s middle name. Let’s put another black man in a dress for comedic purposes. But it’s okay because a Black man wrote it right? And a black man is earning millions off of exploiting not only a certain culture, color, and ethnicity but economic class.

        I think people don’t give credit to Morgan and Stookey because they EXPECT to see someone like Tyreese or T Dogg to represent masculinity and especially masculinity in a black man. Anything short of that and then people start claiming the above article. Morgan may have had his breakdown after the death of his son, but he also secured a whole main street on his own. ON HIS OWN. And for some years. He also continues to keep it walker free. That to me is not incompetence or a weakling. Who wouldn’t suffer badly after losing someone they loved. Especially a child. See Rick. And who is to say Morgan would have snapped if he wasn’t alone. Different circumstances for Morgan, and a much bleaker life he lived than Rick. Stookey is also an Army medic. Sure he has bumbled a few times but I can only imagine what this guy had seen prior to the ZA. Anyone bother to talk to army vets? Struggling with alcoholism isn’t the worst thing. Soldiers and medics aren’t wooses in general. You have to go through rigorous and continuous training as a soldier. A weakling? I think not. And then there’s more training to be a medic, both physically and mentally. He got shot in the mid season finale and told the two to keep moving. Pffft… black man problem. If anything, Rick has been shown weak throughout the entire series. Sure he overcomes it, but with lots of help from others.

        The only real ongoing race representation problem we have in TV shows is the fact that viewers want there to be statements made everytime they have a minority in the show. Instead of them just being there, people want there to be a certain representation. The problem is that not everyone will be satisfied. Tyreese is too masculine, and then the same people complain he was too weak in the previous season or complained that he lost his balls because he cried in the beginning of this season.

        Instead of wanting your opinion of what a proper representation should be of a certain race or ethnic group, how about just wanting a good story with well developed characters.

        Because that’s what the Walking Dead lacks more than skin color.


      2. “If Tyler Perry made The Walking Dead, it would be terrible, but mainly because Tyler Perry doesn’t do serious adventure/sci fi thrillers; it would be a criminally bad genre mismatch.”
        Hmm. I’m deeply disturbed by the idea that someone thinks Tyler Perry might do ANY genre well

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I liked your blog, but it has a inherent flaw! These comics were written by young white guys or men from their prospective, which is a white prospect by default. The flaw is that you assume they have to include the black man, black issues, or black plight in this apocalypse at all. They do not have an obligation to do that at all, but they did. Ultimately, they included these characters to help round out their characters and situations and help further their story lines. If we need to see or want to see strong black leadership roles in shows like this, then we have to write the stories, but we can’t be afraid to round out our characters by having them challenged by other races or irregular situations.


      4. I really do like the show and noticed the pattern as well. To many black in atlanta to have few featured at all…either they get killed off or replace by another…sasha is next…


    2. I always find it interesting that people who don’t have to go through certain things always like to chime in on what they “think” is happening with other people.

      What was even more noticeable about your response is your LACK of an ability to disprove anything that was said. That’s right! You couldn’t even argue one thing that was being said (NOT A SINGLE POINT) and the only thing you could manage to come up with out of the whole thing is the standard white “well at least you have [Michonne])”. Well, Johnny YOU may think that it’s good enough but seeing as though ATLANTA IS 64% BLACK, that point doesn’t stand up! Not to mention that just by saying that you’ve proven that you think that white people are SOOOO superior that we should be happy with what we have….. why? Because you think you deserve more? Well then this page wasn’t meant for you. It was meant for a humanist, not a racist.

      Just so you know….. unless you can actually REFUTE anything that’s being said here your response was worth nothing and at the end of the day you sound like a white boy who ignores shit because it makes you feel uncomfortable and oh yeah…..if it doesn’t happen to you then it doesn’t count. Aren’t you guys tired of being so ignorant and selfish?

      Probably not.

      Oh and by the way, if you don’t like what Black people have to say about the treatment of Black people then you can take your own advise and “don’t fuckin’ read it.” Done.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My two cents on the black zombie thing: I feel that if the majority of zombies were of color, people would then complain that it’s a racist show because it’s a bunch of white people slaughtering black people. The same thing happened with the game Resident Evil 4… Because the game featured Spanish speaking zombies, people commented that it was racist that a white lead character was shooting ethnic enemies.


    3. You call someone an idiot because you don’t have to live it every day and see it everyday you benefit from the racism, and then say we are making it up. You are a selfish person. Open your eyes and try to see it from another person’s perspective. It’s easy to say that when you are not in our shoes when every hero is you on screen.


  2. They apparently have a problem with strong black women, too. I laugh at how all the white folks like Michonne much better now that she’s “nicer” and “smiles a lot”. WTF has she got to smile about? It’s the end of the world as she knows it and she doesn’t feel fine. Why do black folks have to be either grinning like idiots or shucking and jiving all the time in order to make white folks feel better? If they continue dumbing down Michonne, they will ruin the integrity of the character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you, although Michonne as the stereotypical Angry Black Woman wouldn’t be an ideal depiction either. I think this hits upon one of the difficulties in translating comics to live-action; in comics, the medium is much more forgiving of stock one-dimensional characters who lack personality, because the entire genre is two-dimensional and exists in snapshots. The medium implies off-panel personality that we don’t necessarily need to see to believe, because our own minds fill in the gaps. Live-action doesn’t exist in snapshots, so a character who in a comic book spends his or her time being grumpy and pensive would be far less credible on-screen. I think that’s part of the reason we’re seeing a more jovial and chipper Michonne than the brooding Michonne of the comic.

      But I also think you’re hitting upon an important point, that Michonne is more likable when she’s more “likable”; as if the Black woman must be friendly and approachable to earn fan support. She can’t actually be a traumatized and troubled person who kept her zombie boyfriend and brother as pets.


      1. Good point. The angry black female is a worn-out stereotypical character, but IMO, so is the smiling, flirtatious, sexually-receptive female character. But my question is, why can’t Michonne be vital to the group, yet remain somewhat unapproachable emotionally? Daryl is pretty unapproachable emotionally a lot of the time and no one seems to have a problem with it as long as he maintains a high body count. It’s as though they’ve merely traded one female stereotype for another. When they need someone to go on a run, they take Michonne because she’s got brains and skills, not because she has a pretty smile and a sweet ass (even though she does lol). You can depend on her to hold her own, plus help you out if you get cornered by a walker. I guess I’m just saying, why can’t a woman of color be a coldhearted no-nonsense badass like the white males can certainly be in these shows? I don’t like “Hollaback” Michonne. I want my Fierce Head Chopper back lol.


      2. I forgot to mention this in my previous comment lol. Re: Angry Black Female. Personally, I think that women of color have a legitimate reason to be angry. I am a woman of color and I get angry all the time at the way I’m perceived by society. I am frequently angered and/or hurt by the injustices I must face continually in this world. I’m often sickened by it. To deny me or any other woman of color their feelings is like saying that we don’t legit reasons to feel that way and I have a bit of a problem with that. My anger is not irrational, nor is it because I have “menstrual issues”. It is because I have to deal with stupid, racist, sexist crap every day of my life that I shouldn’t have to deal with in this day and age. I often feel like the rest of the world just wants me to suck it up, be quiet and go away, but I’m never gonna do that, until people start treating women like me and other women all over the world a whole lot better than they currently do. I think this is what’s at the heart of me not liking new Michonne. Do you understand what I am saying? I hope I’m making myself clear lol.


    2. You can’t be serious. Michonne in season 3 was merely a glowering buffoon. She was widely reviled as THE worst-written character on tv. “Use your words, Michonne!” was a nation’s frustrated cri de coeur. It’s a relief just to see her begin to approximate a normal human being.

      “Dumbing down” Michonne? In season 3 her inability to pass along even basic information made her seem nearly an imbecile. Now she’s merely badly written. On a show with as poorly drawn characters as TWD, that’s substantial progress.


    3. @ Dragonetta,

      Oh gurl, I can tell you why they think we need to be smiling all the time! It’s their culture! In white ulture, even though they’ve had their normal share of hardships, they’ve also had a LOT to smile about….so they’re used to smiling. Also, they’ve been socialized to smile at times that are odd to us. WW in particular are taught to smile no matter what is going on inside to make other people feel better. This is why you sometimes see their faces smiling but don’t see a smile in their eyes. They are taught to be passive aggressive – and part of being passive aggressive is to smile while something is really bothering you or when you’re stabbing something in the back. So basically – they smile even when it’s not warranted.

      Meanwhile, with us, ever since our ancestors were kidnapped from Africa and made to work for free, slave gave us nothing to smile about and afterwards we’ve had MORE than our share of hardships. Each generation of our people raised the next and since children take cues from their parents (or people who look like them), each generation of black people were taught to only smile when there was a reason – like happiness. Unlike them, we weren’t taught to smile to make other people feel comfortable, when we’re being insulted or when we’re getting ready to attack someone. Unlike them, we weren’t raised to smile when we don’t feel like smiling. To pretend that things are over the top magnificent when things are just average.

      Fast forward to today and now we have one group of people who smile for EVERY reason (even when they are stabbing you in the back) and then there’s us, who smile only when there’s something significant to smile about! This unnerves white people because it goes against their “culture” and while we don’t trust people who smile to much, they don’t trust someone who doesn’t smile at what they consider to be the appropriate time. Because they tend to think that their way is the only way (or at least the right way) they make anything that’s different, a problem, apply their own meaning to it and use that meaning to treat people badly. There’s only a few white people who are refined enough to learn about other cultures but the rest? Well, you’ve definitely met them just as I have. Sad but true.


      1. “There’s only a few white people who are refined enough to learn about other cultures but the rest?” Do you even realize how you sound? You are making a broad sweeping generalization about an entire race of people.


      2. How do you know how every white woman was raised? You are an ignorant human being…regardless of your ethnicity.


  3. Oh my God dude. You are amazing! This article was absolutely brilliant.. I mean you deserve an award or something. You know, there’s this new studio coming up of black directors that are meeting with Steven Spielberg and a many others to ensure funding for films of color can be brought forth. They have around 8,000 supporters for their boycott of The Gods of Egypt’s all white cast, and even Exodus! I’m sure you would be an amazing addition to their team. If you’re interested in bringing powerful black images tot he screen, then join them! Here’s the link to their Facebook page. Great article !


  4. There was actually a black woman character in season 1, who chose to die at the end of the season (with Noah Emmerich’s character) by being blown up at the CDC. Can’t remember the character’s name, but she was in most of the 1st season episodes. I remember it felt a bit weird that Dale went to such efforts to dissuade Andrea from dying the same way, while not making similar efforts for another member of the group.

    Anyway, the one-black-man-at-a-time is a real thing, it’s impossible not to notice. Though I disagree with you that somehow Stookey doesn’t count, based on whether his character is good or bad at certain things. If he gets to live, then to me he does count, and the fact that his character development so far goes beyond being another physical badass is a positive.

    btw, I remember the rebooted Battlestar Galactica having a similar weird dearth of black men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi morro — thanks for reading and I apologize for the oversight. You’re right, Jeryl Prescott played the peripheral character Jacqui for six episodes in season one. I’m sorry I forgot to include her in this post.

      As for Stookey, I was questioning whether or not Stookey was challenging the One Black Man At a Time rule; although his presence on the show does indicate willingness to have more than one Black man, it’s a little weird to me that he is so explicitly emasculated relative to all the other men on the show.

      Either way, though, I’m expecting some interesting developments with his character as the season progresses, so we’ll see!


      1. “it’s a little weird to me that he is so explicitly emasculated relative to all the other men on the show.”

        You mean, relative to the white, main character who has suffered a number of bad beatings, surrendered his gun, was browbeaten on several occasions by his own child with whom he could barely keep up? Who was also a cuckold who was turned into a farmer, of all things? Relative to that character, you mean?

        The desperately skewed thinking on this site truly is something to see.


  5. (Also, haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica, but wouldn’t be surprised if there were problems there too. It seems to be a chronic issue in a lot of sci-fi/horror/etc media.)


    1. Jenn you are right on time with this article. Orange is the new Black the old yoga instructor beats up the young track star who happens to be black. True Detective (episode that aired tonight) Matt Mcconaughey’s character was beating up young black gang members like hot cakes. Training Day Denzel is beaten up by Ethan Hawk. If you’re black and not the main character you are going to lose every time. Even with rage on his side (wife just murdered) the black dude was easily dispatched by Rick. I’m not saying all black men are good fighters (we do get a lot of practice fighting each other) but geeez. But how long do you think this show would last had Rick lost that fight? Whites across the nation would have cancelled their cable service immediately and that is a fact!


      1. Probably the most on point post on here. What is shown is a reality. And kts a reality for blacks in film. And on that same note, if rick lost, the show would lose ratings. Shame its that way. What should have happened, is Tyreese winning. Not because hes black, but becausr they brought him in on this “bear like strength”, then whip his ass. They establish him, then debunk everything . He should have won, there should have been issues in the prison over it, they he stands up like a man and straightens it all out. Needless to say, i do believe the men of color have been emasculated in the books and the film. And many more.


  6. An excellent and even-handed analysis of a real problem – TWD is by no means the worst offender in this category, but it could be much more a part of the solution. I do question a few of your supporting arguments, though: I would hardly characterize the comic version of Tyreese as “brutish”, for example. While he’s undoubtedly one of the badass characters, he’s also one of the best at keeping his dignity and humanity (he takes up much of the Shane role in ‘keeping Rick honest’ in the books).

    As for “all the strong Black men in the show are still expressly depicted as physically inferior to our White male protagonist…Rick subdues a hysterical Morgan and a hysterical Tyreese with his fists”, this is technically true, but he’s also subdued a ‘hysterical Shane’ with his fists several times. In this case I’d argue it has more to do with the simple narrative convention of “protagonist is the strongest good character there is” (or, possibly, that hysterical people freaking out aren’t really fighting you, they just need to calm the hell down so you can have a dialogue scene) than any sort of racial commentary, explicit or otherwise.

    And though the T-Dog (ugh, why does he have to have that name) –> Oscar –> Tyreese problem is demonstrable, I don’t think Morgan really counts because his story is entirely outside that of the main cast. That is, Rick passed by where Morgan lives and THEN found the rest of the group…so Morgan still exists, we just don’t see him (except in the ‘webisodes’). I’m not up-to-date on the episodes but I admit on some level I really hope he’s still out there.


    1. Hey ONP, thanks for reading and commenting!

      Re: Comic Tyreese — I agree, and don’t mean to imply that Tyreese is a moron (or the other negative anti-intellectual connotations of the word ‘brutish’). I used the word in reference to his physical presence.

      Re: Rick dominating with his fists — I would agree that perhaps this might have something to do with Rick solving all his interpersonal problems with his fists, except that in a recent episode, Daryl also is shown “punking” Stookey; there isn’t a single instance of a Black man coming out on top in a physical interpersonal conflict between himself and a non-Black male. So, that’s what leads me to think there is more to it than that.

      Re: Morgan — I do include Morgan because I anticipate his eventual return to the show. Currently, he’s mostly an aside (and part of that DOES have to do with the fact that he’s not part of the main group), but since he has a high chance of joining the main group next season if the series continues to draw inspiration from the comic, I think it’s worth keeping an eye on him in the scope of this particular “Black Man Problem”.


      1. “there isn’t a single instance of a Black man coming out on top in a physical interpersonal conflict between himself and a non-Black male.”

        Yes there is. The original group Tyrese was in last season (himself, his sister, a father and son, one other woman, iirc), there was some backstory of tension between Tyrese and the older (white) man, something about Tyrese having saved the woman and making the man look bad. It was never fully explained. But after they joined the Woodbury group, the two men came to blows and Tyrese easily got the better of the other man. As I recall, he held him above a pit of zombies and nearly threw him into it.


      2. Actually you’re right. Tyreese did physically overcome that father character — my bad! But, I don’t think this substantially changes my overall point that Black men on TWD are being routinely and explicitly depicted as physically overcome by White men like Rick and Daryl.

        While I clearly forgot about that example in Season 3, I think that example was intended to establish Tyreese’s overall physical strength, which was the same purpose of the megahorde scene more recently. He can fight off thirty Walkers, yet, he’s still unable to overcome Rick?

        In the comic, Rick and Tyreese fight to a stalemate. That, to me, would be a better outcome than the scene we were treated to in the show. Here, we are supposed to believe that Tyreese is a physical warrior, but still inferior to Rick.


    2. If you missed “Clear”, from Season Three, by all means take a look. It catches us up on what’s been going on with Morgan since Rick left him and Duane in the pilot. Lennie James, as always, is superb in that episode. Best southern accent on the show (along with Lauren Cohan), and he’s British.


      1. Actually, sorry, just fact checked. Her dad is American and Mom is Scottish. Educated in England.. poor kid probably has to work hard to keep her accents straight.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Just finished watching Episode 7 of the Walking Dead. I have some advice for all the minorities on the show: AVOID THE WHITE CHARACTERS, THEY WILL KILL YOU. I’m beginning to think that the black characters on this show only exist to be either eaten by walkers or killed/beaten up by the white characters. Another black man down and this one didn’t even “put up a fight” as per Martinez, who himself became a victim of the Governor’s dirty deeds. Black characters, if you see a white guy in a ditch, LEAVE HIS ASS IN THERE. You can’t trust him. I don’t have high hopes for Michonne making through this season without something horrible happening to her. Oh wait, Rick already handed her over to a known racist and abuser (Merle). Who’d have thought that Merle would show more compassion for a black character than Rick? And what’s with Michonne’s acceptance of what Rick did to her? Oh, it’s alright, Mr. White Man, you can give me away anytime you want, I don’t mind. HUH? I was waiting for her to remove his head with her katana. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO HER??? Need some help, Michonne? No massa, I’ll just drag all three hundred of these dead walkers to the truck by myself. WHAT? Morgan hasn’t even returned yet and I’m already afraid for him. Tyreese and Sasha need to leave once Sasha is feeling better. I’d hate to see either one of them die trying to protect a white character or worse yet, at the hands of a white character.


    1. Morgan Jones, Bob Stookey.

      Andrea also doesn’t have a last name. Neither does a lot of the characters in both comic and tv show.


  8. I think you’re all reading too much into it. I think that’s just the ratio of good actors they had “show up,” nothing more. I agree that this kind of race propaganda is what CONTINUES the divide instead of helping it. It’s all in your head. I see just as much black success in media these days as I see white, and you’re full of bull.


  9. To anyone that says if you think the show is racist and don’t like it then don’t watch, the same goes for you. if you don’t like this post then don’t write a comment you fucking idiots. The producers of this show are racist as fuck. In the comic book when tyrese and rick fight its tyrese that knocks out Rick however, in the show its the other way around why is that? also, in the tv show they make tyrese character soft but in the comic book he’s a big tough guy that played linebacker. I love zombies but I’m very disappointed in this show. Shame on the producers depicting black people as inferior to whites. They’re just mad because they are weak with tiny dicks.


    1. In the show rick had help. It was a 2 vs. 1 fight. Until Darrel jumped in, Tyreese was kicking Rick’s ass. I don’t see much in the way of racism in a 2 on 1 fight. As to earlier comments about Atlanta being mostly black and the survivors mostly white, the survivors are from outside the city and almost all of Georgia outside of downtown Atlanta and a strip from a bit west of Valdosta to Camden county is mostly white and Hispanic. Where are all of the Hispanics?


  10. I also believe that you are reading too much into it. When I watch the show, I didn’t view the fight as saying that Rick was ‘better’ than Tyreese; I viewed it as Rick being screwed in the head and lost it. I even saw the regret he had afterwards. Bob is not a fighter but is extremely intelligent when it comes to medicine. I believe he was the one who figured out what the flu problem was, and the whole group may have died without him. As for numbers, the show has basically the same race percentage that the country has in real life. 75% white, 13% black, 7% Hispanic, and 5% Asian. That is from the last census data. Remember that the show wants you to feel that any one of the characters can die at any minute, and you wouldn’t have that if Rick was with an army of muscular black guys. Also, most stories have a limit of 1 character per archetype. For example: Rick- Leader, Tyreese- muscle, Daryl- hunter/tracker, Hershel was a medic (position will probably be filled by Bob), and Michonne- samurai. These are just the ‘lead’ examples that can only have one person filling them. If a better leader character comes along, you can bet that Rick will bite it.

    Sorry for the long post, but us (decent) white folks don’t view you negatively because of a TV characters role.


  11. I find the contradictions amusing. Lesson learned: you can’t make people with their own personal baggage happy and when you try to do so you’ll just shoot yourself in the foot. The best thing to do is not pay attention to what these people say about your work and write what you want to write. If if it’s viewed as “racist” in any way then so be it. No one respects someone who begs for forgiveness.

    On top of that if we go by US demographics the show bends over backwards to be inclusive. Although maybe someone should whine about Hispanics having limited portrayal. OMG.. did anyone see how stereotypical Latinos are portrayed? A group of “Vatos” taking care of the elderly, two Hispanic families briefly included, and one bad guy named Martinez who looks to the White man for leadership only to be beaten by a golf club… hey… golf club… White… omg.. the stereotypes keep on coming. lolz.. What about those two murderous stereotypical crude dagos from Philly that the poster boy for the White WASP male oppressive patriarchy kills? Is there no shame!!!!


  12. Hi Jenn.. I was watching all the episodes on Netflix and I couldn’t help but to notice the lack of African Americans in the walking dead series… Also what bothered me was in season two whet they first broke into the prison I noticed a large amout of black zombie inmates.. I was kinda offended by this but I surely noticed it. I’m starting to wonder if the writers of this show are racist or prejudice towards African Americans…


  13. “In the first season, only two Black characters were depicted — Morgan and T-Dog — both men and neither received significant screen-time. ” I guess Black *women* characters are invisible to the author unless they demand attention with a katana – what about Jackie in Season 1? She was as much a part of the ensemble as any of the other ones in the camp we were introduced to in that season, and she was more central and lasted longer than the Mexican family you reference. Kind of ironic you don’t acknowledge her, given the topic of your post.


    1. Replying to my own comment, because I commented based on a link to this article someone posted on FB. The version of the article I read, including comments, was outdated. (How does that even work – wouldn’t a link to a blog bring me to the “live,” updated blog?) So I see you’ve already addressed the Jacqui issue.

      Michonne can’t win, it seems. If she smiles and is social with the group, she’s shucking and jiving. If she’s withdrawn and fierce, she’s the Angry Black Woman. Or is it that black women in general just can’t win? Anyway…I like Michonne. Red Sonja was always my favorite as a kid, so Michonne is my “new” Red Sonja…


  14. I live 30 miles west of Atlanta and you are spot on vis-a-vis the ethnic makeup of the group. At least it’s slightly better with Sasha and Bob the Alcoholic.

    T-Dog, Carl, even Tyrese might as well be wearing a red shirt (Star Trek reference) for all the longevity they have.


  15. you are nothing more than a blind and bought and paid for, by the US taxpayers… a dumb NIG .. ERRRRR… Stop race baiting… blacks make up .. what? 13% of the population and yet, (per capita) make up most of the violence and suck up (per capita) of the mooching off tax payers.

    Of the roughly 10% of the population of “blacks” in America… how many of those dead beat fathers would make it out in a zombie apocalypse alive?

    Your problem isn’t so much with black representation as it is that deep down, you know that the black culture has a problem. However, instead of address’n these problems and giving the community shit, you decide to defend, “the foe realz nigga”..” the real nigga”. How has that been working in the communities?

    If TWD were for real… when the gravy train runs out in the poor inner cities… it won’t take a zombe outbreak to make people eat each other….. they will do that regardless. Instead of race baiting, why don’t you point your anger toward the culture that perpetuates this nonsense? O … wait.. you won’t.. because you are a female “uncle tom” that finds her time demeaning other races… by explaining how it’s wrong to demean other races…. hypocrite

    try again… O.. and btw.. Obama failed your race.. he promised.. and he lied….how about you stop pointing to a lack of skin color, while saying others aren’t paying enough attention. Why do you help to keep a broth’a down? Is it because you are enjoying “white privilege”? You are a disgrace to the black race….


  16. Love this post I told my friends about this before. The very first episode with T-Dog he was called a Nigga by Merril and told whats the deal and then easily beaten only to be saved by Rick. Still when T-Dog went back to save Merril (why?) instead of dropping the key in front of him and telling him to die. He incompetently falls and drops the key (uh), and over the course of 2 seasons either is invisible or trying to run away and desert the group. Back to the 1st episode, in a zombie apocalypse with humanity on the brink and no police around a black man gets verbally and physically abused by a Klansman and doesn’t get any revenge, Jesus Christ I hold my nose and just try to ignore TWD Black Man Problem just so I can enjoy the show. Oh here are two other shows that seemed to have that same issue Falling Skies a racist becomes a hero and Battlestar Galataca they white washed the black characters if you know the original


  17. At this point in time, the group is broken down as follows:

    white people (non-Hispanic): Rick, Carl, Maggie, Carol, Daryl, Abraham, Eugene, Beth (8)
    black people: Tyreese, Sasha, Bob, Michonne (4)
    Asian person: Glenn (1)
    Latina person: Rosita (1)

    Considering that in the U.S. black people are about one in eight people, I don’t think African Americans are clearly under-represented in this show. Yes, this is based around Atlanta but not everyone seeking refuge in the Atlanta refugee camp was from Atlanta or necessarily even the surrounding area and at this point obviously they’re a ways from Atlanta and have met people along the way. Yes, several black characters have been killed off but so have most of the white characters. Asians and Latinos are the ones that are truly under-represented. Hopefully the Vatos are still alive and well.


  18. If a friend and one of said African American male actors mentioned in this article replied, “I hate it and its pissing me off to be honest” when asked “…I can somewhat see your perception by the comment you made, but honestly, what is your take on this article and perspective of this aspect of the show?”, then you should let it go! I’m just stating the FACTS that came directly from an individual you opted to include in this story, whom you probably should’ve asked before doing so. As stated in the first episode, there are no rednecks, no sheriffs, no nig___s, just white meat and dark meat: US and THEM, so it’s a live/dead thing, not a black/white thing!


    1. Lol I was waiting for someone to say that.. Bob died just as his character was getting developed! Disappointing. And this does lend credence to the idea that there exists an unwritten “one black man at a time” rule. Bob’s character was getting stronger. Did he have to die before getting too strong and interesting, lest there be two strong black men among the characters? The commenter Cody (just below this comment) runs down some basic data for us. I’m a math person so I like data/statistics. Based on the data Cody has compiled, one might draw the conclusion that in fact all the criticism put forth by Jenn (the author) is a bunch of smoke. On the other hand, Cody’s stats are basically raw numerical values from which we can infer death rates along ethnicity lines. This doesn’t capture the “one black man at a time” phenomenon. Statistics often must be designed to capture the phenomenon you are interested in. Looking at death rates along ethnicity lines is one thing, but looking at the lengths of time intervals containing more than a single central black male character is a totally different, and perhaps more revealing, type of statistic. Affirmative action guarantees that an institution’s percentages are in accord with census data, but there can still be discrimination within an institution even though it fully complies with affirmative action laws. Such discrimination might not be uncovered by a rudimentary statistical analysis. More specialized stats are required. Also, from a statistical point of view, more data is still required to determine whether or not there is racism inherent to this particular show. When all is said and done, we might end up with 10 or more seasons. Once the show finishes its run, someone should definitely do a careful statistical study to try and show the existence of the “one black man at a time” rule. Nerds of the world unite!


  19. So let’s go through some stats:

    Season 1

    Number of living characters who die: 21

    13 dead when camp is over-run, various races included.

    Number of storyline characters: 4 (3 white, 1 black)

    Of the remaining 8 characters, 7 were white, one was black. Of the white people killed, three were criminals gunned down, and one was Ed, the abusive husband of Carol. Jacqui, the only main black character to die was a strong, central character, and chose to die on her own terms.

    Season 2

    Number of living who die: 9
    White: 8

    Jimmy, Patricia, Dale, and Shane are all storyline characters, and all die horrible deaths, all white, two of which are critical characters. No black characters killed.

    Season 3

    Number of living who die: 29
    White: 19
    Black: 8
    Latino: 1
    Asian: 1

    Main characters: T-Dog, Merle, Lori, Milton, Andrea. 1 black, 3 white. All died, interestingly enough, working towards the greater good. T-Dog, contrary to your comments here, was a critical character who was probably the most selfless character out of the entire group. He was mentioned on several occasions following his death.

    Season 4

    Living Characters Who Die: 49
    White: 42
    Middle Eastern: 1
    Black: 3
    Latino: 3

    Main Characters: 5 (Hershel, Governor, Lilly, Lizzie, Mika) all were white.

    The main bad guy was white, and most of the henchmen were white.

    I am not going to get into season 5 as it’s ongoing, but there are 4 main black characters, 2 male and 2 female. All have played a significant role in the story thus far, with Bob actually having quite a bit of screen time.

    So what can we conclude from all of this? I’ll leave that up to you, but it’s clear that he vast majority of major characters and just deaths in general have been that of white people, and surprise surprise, that makes sense considering white people are still predominant.

    In between the complaints, of the show’s character structure of black people, I’d like to hear from a black person what they think the ideal make up of the group should be.


  20. I think someone is over thinking the show way too much! Lol Just enjoy the show! It’s all for entertainment. 🙂 I’m latina but I’m not crying about the nonexistence of Latinos on the show!


  21. I just watched Season 5 episode 3 today. It’s striking to me that none of the three black male characters in this season are at all violent men. It could be interpretated as positive that they are not being depicted as violent men, and that they each have a distinct character.


    1. I for one decry the show’s relentless demonization of white men. Aside from the infidelity Lori was tricked into and her Lady Macbeth moment leading to Shane’s death in season two, women are almost universally shown as anywhere from neutral to good. Carol’s behavior wrt the two people she killed ‘for the greater’ good early in season three is excused by the show, while Andrea’s blunders are put down to her being misguided, not malicious. Men of color are routinely shown to be good hearted, strong, optimistic. Women of color are shown to be strong, tough, even noble. White men, though? What a nasty lot, topped by the particularly psychotic Governor.

      In fact, I don’t actually care about these things in the context of a single, badly written but still fairly engaging series, but this only shows how, looked at in isolation, pretty much anything can be asserted and seem reasonable.


  22. Your very right about this show .they portray all the blackmen as weak and usless . And the black women as warriors. Yeah right but you have t o realize who writes this show . They wanna make themselves look strong. But its just tv.they envey the strength and maculinty of the blackman.always have and always will. Thats why they hate so much so with this and other fantasys thry can make them selves look like there more man but they know there not.i work out around alot of white guys like this and you can smell there insecurity. I make them nervous , why because im bigger and stronger than they are.and they dont like that. These are the same type of so called men that write the walking dead .there living out there warrior fantasys. But thats just what it is a fantasy.


  23. We need an update… with last week’s episode and Bob dying, and “the father”… and now Tyler James Williams comes on… what will happen!?!? — and while I think many ‘gender’ issues and indeed a decent rep. cast is there, its still a “white patriarchy”… though it seems the producers are hearing the call?


  24. I think some people are missing what the real problem is. It’s not quantity, but quality of the black characters and how despite their presence in the comic have made it to tv as shadows of their graphic novel selves. Carol is now the alpha female of the show, she’s the smartest, best fighter, most experienced and as wise as Athena but it’s Michonne who Rick gets to do the dangerous errands. Whenever something needs to be placed here or put there. the blacks get that task. Glenn, Rick, and Maggie got an apology from Tara. Michonne, Tyreese and Sasha recieved no such courtesy. The problem is Amc and the writers can’t flesh out the black characters because their demagraphic doesn’t want to see that. So, the black characters must be full of vices and weaknesses and no virtues. Tyreese cannot be comic Tyreese cause that would make him an equal. Michonne must remain the scowling, angry, mute-like mammy/attack dog or she’ll over shadow Carol. It wasn’t a cowinkidink that fans started screaming about character arc and developement of Carol as soon as the Michonne character appeared. The black characters can only flatline and or devolve least they offend the sensibilities of the white people who keep this show rolling in ratings. The black characters are simply window dressing that allows Scott Gimple to attend Comic Con or do interviews with Entertainment Weekly bragging about the diversity of the show.


    1. The only racist here is you trying to put race issues where they arent at…people like you are the reason racism will never go away you should be ashamed of your self


    2. The only racist here is you putting a race issue where it isnt at…people like you are the reason racism will never end you should be ashamed of yourself!


  25. Good to see that since the writing of this article, both Tyreese and Bob saw more character development/involvement in the show. And eenthough Bob dies, there was a hint that Morgan will be making another appearance on the show – so at least he’s not dead.


    1. Do you really call the emasculation of the Tyreese character developement? Tyreese hasn’t developed, he’s devolved into a cowardly babsitter. And you can bet dollars to doughnuts that the Abe character will not be babysitting or afraid to kill. He will be exactly what he is in the comics. Yes, it appears that Morgan will return but I wouldn’t get happy about that. Michonne is Rick’s attack dog and Carl’s mammy. Tyreese is Carol’s butler. I figure by the time Morgan does come back he’ll be Daryl’s negro spirtual singing, tap dancing lawn jockey.


  26. Jesus Christ people! get the fuck over it! the only people that make it a black thing are the people wanting to prolong the racist bullshit! screw Jesse screw Malcolm. LET IT GO!


  27. Think TWD is bad – Watch “The Following” – they are the Red Shirts (like on Star Trek) – guaranteed to die……smh.


  28. I remember a few years ago watching an interview on youtube (I can’t remember who he was) where some director stated that if there are more then 3 Black people on a series, it automatically becomes a Black show. This is why you rarely see more then 3 Black co-stars on a series if the main characters are White. I wish I could remember the person in this interview. He spoke so well and so true.


  29. I have two main observations to make about this article:

    1.) As many people have said before me, Seasons 4 and 5 have become much more racially diverse. Instead of jumping in and using this point to prove how wrong you are, though, I would say it works in your favour. At the start of Season 5, as the group of survivors are leaving Terminus, I remember thinking “Wow, there are a lot of black people in this group now.”

    Some people might say I’m being racist, but I’ll try to assure you I’m not. It’s just that – as you said – having more than a “token black guy” in any show is such a rarity that the very sight of four (five, with the addition of the pastor) is actually conspicuous.

    2.) I think your point fell apart a bit with Bob, though. I understand this was written in early Season 4, when Bob was a much more pathetic character, but I got the impression that you were saying “I wish black people didn’t always play the muscle role. Oh, but Bob’s too wimpy. Make him tough, but not TOO tough so he isn’t a stereotype.” I agree on your main point, the Black Man Revolving Door, but less so with this direction of your argument.


  30. Do you feel even slightly hypocritical for writing about “the Black man problem” regarding the characters of The Walking Dead, and then immediately posting a meme that reads, “Dealing with White people drama”? The double standards held by those like you are quite humorous. Alas, what am I thinking? Any and all stereotyping of White people — specifically White males — is kosher. While even the mere possibility of underlying racial connotations, no matter how unintended, spoken by a White individual is grounds for being drawn and quartered (which they are undoubtedly deserving of). Twenty First Century Americans….LOL


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