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illustration by Jeremy Hush

I don’t think it is news to anyone that there is a zombie craze going on in our entertainment industry at the moment.  Everywhere you turn there is another form of undead amusement hoping to catch our eye—and eat it.  I’ll admit I am fan of the zombie genre though I have no idea why.  One of my favorite movies of all time is 28 Days Later, which arguably sparked the current zombie overload.  Like any good dystopian sci-fi entertainment (my favorite), when there is a relevant message attached to it which I find interesting, I’m hooked.  But for every good zombie movie out there, there are twenty ridiculous ones.  I was looking through Family Video the other day and walked past a movie having something to do with Nazi zombies in the center of the Earth—really?  Actually, there seems to be a lot of Nazi themed zombie “entertainment” going all the way back to Wolfenstein (The classic first-person shooter for the PC?  Never mind.).  I guess we can’t get enough of killing Nazis so we keep bringing them back in order to kill them again, which gave me an idea.  What if all these living-dead Nazis are illustrating a fear our culture has with racist ideas attempting to leave the grave where we thought we buried them?

Now that we have elected an African-American president many people have claimed that we live in a post-race culture.  They will say we as a people have matured beyond our old ways of viewing the world along ethnic dividing lines.  The laws are certainly in place to prevent discriminatory practices, so really there is no reason to fear the prejudiced attitudes of the past.  This angers many who have been the target of racism and who continually feel the effects of our racist past; in their eyes racism is alive and well.  African-American men still have trouble hailing a cab in the city and are frequently looked at with suspicion.   They are associated with poverty, crime, and various others of society’s ills.  Stereotypes are abundant in popular culture when it comes to all ethnic groups and unfortunately we are still highly segregated.  I would say both of these views have merit.

I agree, for the most part, that racism is dead in this country and when I say racism is dead, I mean that it has no real life.  Let me explain.  When something has life it has the ability to grow and mature.  A living organism adapts to its environment, developing over time; racism is lifeless in this sense.  It does not have the ability to sway the masses the way it once did.  Younger generations have a hard time even comprehending how it once gripped our country; to them racism is a rotting corpse.  We are continuously reminded of the destructive nature of racism.  We all get a healthy dose of history on the Civil Rights Movement. We read The Diary of Anne Frank in school to inform us about Nazi ethnic cleansing.  We read To Kill a Mockingbird to understand how Black people were once looked at as second hand citizens.  We study the Civil War and all the significant events surrounding it concerning the abolition of slavery.  As we move through our educational system we are fully indoctrinated with diversity which is a good thing and it is working.  We understand our mistakes, often times to the detriment of our successes, and to be labeled a racist in our society is to become the despicable, the inexcusable, the pariah.  This is why I say it is dead.  It cannot survive as a healthy, vibrant, and influential worldview.  We have killed it.

So we move about our day never really expecting to run into racism, but every once in a while we are hit with a slur.  Sometimes we see a stereotype.  We may even be blindsided by blatant discrimination.  Then we are reminded this sickness still exists.  It has been killed over and over again but it resurfaces and attempts to pull us back in.  Most of us are well equipped and are able to blow the brains out of ignorance with a shotgun, but there are those who are slower.  They may not have the tools many of us have to fight against bigotry and so they are overtaken.  This is the threat which is always lurking with hateful ideas.  We can kill it as much as we want but like an annoying zombie it will occasionally rise from the dead in order to feast on brains.  Really, we will never be able to completely eradicate the Earth of racist ideas and people.  People will always find reasons to hate other people, and despite the education we are trying to impart it just won’t stick with everyone.  Here and there people will get bitten by the undead and they will attempt to multiply their numbers by seeking out others.

Fortunately for us this infection has a cure.  Zombie racists can be turned back from brain-dead wanderers into minds which are full of life.  The cure has nothing to with violence or shotguns.  Integration, education, dialogue, and patience are our most powerful weapons against these lifeless ideas.  The results will never be complete and any attempts at complete eradication are dangerous because they are an illusion.  Ignorance will always exist in our fallen world so if we think we can force racist people into right thinking we will come dangerously close to becoming what we are fighting against.  If we lose ourselves to hate in the process of trying to survive the zombie-racist apocalypse we will begin to see our own brains rot.  In some ways, this can prove to be more dangerous than the original threat because it will only create more of the like.  The cycle can only be broken by “speaking the truth in love”.  By doing this we will “heap coals on the heads” of those trying to tear us down and hopefully prove their racism to be nothing but a rotting corpse.