What do zombies have to do with police killing unarmed Black people?

Joseph Phelan, CSS Fellow


As people across the United States continue to engage in creative actions and protest the non-indictment of former Police Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the country is still split, mostly along racial lines, about what is going on in Ferguson.

Professor Gaston Gordillo of the University of British Colombia, looks at this division through the lens of the 21st century mythology of the zombie apocalypse.

In a recent post for his blog Space and Politics  entitled The Killable Horde he writes, "The zombies that the film industry presents as killable are the fictionalized embodiment of the actual human multitudes that are deemed killable all over the world, from Gaza to Ferguson, Missouri. The powerful have long marked oppressed populations as savage, frightening, and killable without guilt. The recent popularity of tropes about human rights does not seem to have undermined the power of this visceral disposition toward life and death."

He continues, "... otherwise law-abiding people can readily and indignantly condemn murder, except when it involves those unruly, scary bodies that deserve to be killed —like those zombies shred to pieces in World War Z."

Gordillo's central assertion, that the powerful have long transformed - through culture, iconography, myth, junk science, and the feedback loop of policy/law - oppressed populations into killable hordes so there is not skip in morality for those doing the killing, further illuminates the importance of one of the most popular and life affirming memes emerging in the Ferguson movement, #BlackLivesMatter. If the horde is killable because they are not human the basic assertion of humanness and mattering is a powerful stance.

Gordillo's post also highlights that if we do not contend in the cultural sphere we risk losing the long term battle of the story, nor matter what policy victories we win.

Check out the full post here