Walking Dead Diversity Watch – 7.0

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In the past, there’s been a lot of debate about the diversity in the Walking Dead TV series, often focusing on the “revolving door” of PoC characters throughout the early seasons. Although there definitely was a trend that was rather disturbing, I decided to take an objective look at the numbers. The original “diversity watch” occurred via notes on social media, so this is the first time I’ve moved it over to my public blog. Here everyone can see a statistical analysis of the 219 named characters and their demographic trends.

Total Racial and Gender Demographics

  • White – 77.06%
  • Black – 12.84%
  • Latino – 7.80%
  • Asian – 2.29%

As you can see, the TV show follows the typical White majority often found in entertainment. Although Caucasians do make up a majority, current U.S. demographics show they are nowhere near as strongly skewed as the cast. Most importantly, there should be much more Asian and Latino representation.

  • Male – 68.81%
  • Female – 31.81%

In addition, the 2:1 Male-to-Female ratio is obviously way off compared to U.S. (or even global) demographics.

However, when you look at the individual demographics you find that the living vs. dead rate is more in favor of PoC and female characters.

Percent Alive, Dead, or Unknown

  • White – 19.64% Alive, 74.40% Dead, and 5.95% Unknown
  • Black 25.00% Alive, 64.29% Dead, and 10.71% Unknown
  • Latino 11.76% Alive, 29.41% Dead, and 58.82% Unknown
  • Asian 40% Alive, 40% Dead, and 20% Unknown

As you can see, almost 3/4 of the White characters have ended up dead, followed by almost 2/3 of Black characters. Despite that latter fact, Black characters have mostly stayed alive, with 1 out of 4 making it, a rate only behind the Asian characters (thanks solely to Glenn). Sadly, Latinos appear to be most often left unknown as background or forgotten characters.

  • Male – 19.33% Alive, 68.67% Dead, and 12.00% Unknown
  • Female – 22.06% Alive, 69.12% Dead, and 8.82% Unknown

Gender-wise, men and women fare about the same. Female characters tend to be alive or dead slightly more often, while male characters have a small chance more to be left fate unknown.

The reason behind these trends is the average lifespan of characters. Although there are far more White male characters, most of them only last for a short bit, whereas the minority characters often make it much further.

Lifespan (in Episodes) of Characters

  • Average Lifespan – 10.99
  • White – 10.30
  • Black – 16.54
  • Latino – 5.82
  • Asian – 20.60

As can be seen, White characters are just below the average, only above Latino characters (most of whom are simply fate unknown). Black characters, on the other hand, have a lifespan50% further than the average. Asian characters have the best lifespan, but that is skewed by their small population and the single, consistent character: Glenn.

  • Male – 9.67
  • Female – 13.90

Here we see that men fare slightly worse than average, often only lasting about 1/2 a season. In comparison, women fare much better, making it almost an entire season.

Going into further detail, we can rank the characters by their lifespan to determine importance. (Note: By lifespan, we’re counting first episode to most recent episode, ignoring any gaps in between. Actual screen presence is a different matter and far harder to calculate.)

Grade of Character (A through E)

A-Grade Characters (42+ Episodes – Main characters; half the series or more)

  • White – 66.67%
  • Black – 25.00%
  • Latino – 0%
  • Asian – 8.33%

B-Grade Characters (21+ Episodes – Supporting characters; a season or more)

  • White – 70.00%
  • Black – 20.00%
  • Latino – 10.00%
  • Asian – 0%

C-Grade Characters (10+ Episodes – Supporting or minor; half a season or more)

  • White – 83.33%
  • Black – 16.67%
  • Latino – 0%
  • Asian – 0%

D-Grade Characters (5+ Episodes – Minor or background; small story arcs)

  • White – 73.81%
  • Black – 14.29%
  • Latino – 4.76%
  • Asian – 7.14%

E-Grade Characters (1+ Episodes – Background or fodder; around for a short bit)

  • White – 78.70%
  • Black – 8.33%
  • Latino – 12.04%
  • Asian – 0.93%

As you can see, Whites still dominate all categories, but they mostly represent C-grade and E-grade categories. These are often half-season supporting cast (e.g. Patricia and Jimmy, Lizzie and Mika, Deanna, etc.) or  episodic background and fodder characters (e.g. Woodbury and Prison residents, Terminus cannibals, etc.). Blacks show up more as A-Grade and B-Grade categories. They’re often supporting characters for a season or more (e.g. T-Dog and Tyreese), or move on to become main characters (e.g. Michonne and Sasha). Asians are, as usual, skewed by Glenn; other than his presence as a main character, the rest are relegated to the background. Latinos have it the worst, with only a single almost-main character (Rosita) and the rest background characters that simply disappeared after a few episodes or single story arcs.

A-Grade Characters (42+ Episodes – Main characters; half the series or more)

  • Male – 41.67%
  • Female – 58.33%

B-Grade Characters (21+ Episodes – Supporting characters; a season or more)

  • Male – 70.00%
  • Female – 30.00%

C-Grade Characters (10+ Episodes – Supporting or antagonists; half a season or more)

  • Male – 58.33%
  • Female – 41.67%

D-Grade Characters (5+ Episodes – Antagonists or background; small story arcs)

  • Male – 69.05%
  • Female – 30.95%

E-Grade Characters (1+ Episodes – Background or fodder; around for a short bit)

  • Male – 75.00%
  • Female – 25.00%

Among gender, the demographics still lean toward males dominating almost every category except one: main characters. For characters that have lasted more than half the series, women slightly edge out men.

Thoughts

In review, Walking Dead suffers from most of pop culture, in that they usually cast White males… in everything from bit parts to leads. In contrast, however, those characters are more likely to end up dead than minority roles and have a slightly lower than average “life span”. Black characters, despite the “revolving door” of earlier seasons, have become much more resilient as the show progresses. Asian characters appear to have the best chance, but solely because of small population and a single character. Latinos are probably the worst demographic, with small population, limited lifespan, and a tendency to simply be relegated to “unknown” with no further resolution or development.

As always, this is a continuing project that is regularly updated as new characters, episodes, and statistics arise.

Bonus Facts (Spoilers!)

Who are the top 10 “Grade A” characters in lifespan?

  • Glen Rhee (83 episodes)
  • Morgan Jones (83 episodes)
  • Rick Grimes (83 episodes)
  • Carl Grimes (83 episodes)
  • Carol Peletier (81 episodes)
  • Daryl Dixon (81 episodes)
  • Maggie Greene (76 episodes)
  • Michonne (65 episodes)
  • Judith Grimes (61 episodes)
  • Sasha Williams (57 episodes)

Which 10 dead characters made it the furthest?

  • Beth Greene (52 episodes)
  • Hershel Greene (36 episodes)
  • Andrea (34 episodes)
  • Tyreese Williams (34 episodes)
  • Merle Dixon (33 episodes)
  • Lori Grimes (23 episodes)
  • T-Dog (22 episodes)
  • The Governor (22 episodes)
  • Shumpert (21 episodes)
  • Caesar Martinez (21 episodes)

Who are the longest living characters in each racial demographic?

  • White – Rick & Carl Grimes
  • Black – Morgan Jones
  • Latino – Rosita Espinosa
  • Asian – Glenn Rhee

Who are the longest-running groups with an unknown fate?

  • Grady Memorial Hospital (Season 5)
  • Morales Family (Season 1)

 

 

Race Exists (Whether You Acknowledge It or Not)

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Dear White friends,

I know you want to live in a utopia where race doesn’t matter. Every time the discussion comes up, you say, “Well, I don’t see color.” When there’s a riot or a speech by some activist, you decry them as the racist. “You’re the one bringing it up, making it all about race.” You sincerely believe that if we just stop labeling, accusing, or thinking about the topic, it will go away.

Well, you’re wrong. Race exists, and is important, whether you like it or not.

At the very least, it’s a factor that makes someone different. Maybe it’s physical, like someone who is left-handed, short, or deaf. You don’t ignore these aspects when you know someone, so why would you ignore their race? Maybe it doesn’t come up all the time, or it’s the butt of friendly jokes, or it’s a serious part of their lives. Yet it exists and people have to acknowledge it. You don’t ask your short friend to get something off the shelf or tell someone deaf to go to concerts; why would you tell your Black friend to not worry about situations where skin color matters?

On the other hand, maybe it’s an intricate part of their lives, rooted in culture, history, and development. “Race” is a social construct, as we’re all the same species, consisting of physical features, historical occurrences, cultural ties, and individual experiences. Someone who is Native American is more than their looks; their development may be influenced by the ancient teachings of their nation, historic oppression, modern poverty, and their personal views and relationships. If you ignore “race”, you are denying more than their skin color; you are ignoring history, society, and self-identity.

So, that makes me a “racist” because I refuse to ignore that factor? Well, no.

Racism occurs when you take those differences and aspects, and use them to denigrate another. Racists use “race” to label others inferior while making themselves appear superior. They use labels, traits, and culture ties in a harmful, exclusive manner. (There’s also “positive” stereotypes, which still constitutes a form of racism, but that’s a topic for another time).

You can acknowledge race, and all that comes with it, without being “racist”. All you’re doing is saying, “Oh, you’re different; maybe I should think before I say or do something based on that difference.” You already do this for friends because of their personal experiences or beliefs, so why wouldn’t you do it because of race? Why would you avoid casual use of the word “rape” around a victim, but think it’s acceptable to use the N-word because “Black people do it”? If you can support LGBT-rights, because they’re born that way, why is it so hard to acknowledge higher rates of police brutality against those born with non-Caucasian skin?

Now, of course there are those who try to argue about racism because they feel it’s been flipped back on White people. “If you give special treatment to Blacks or Latinos, then you’re a racist!” These same people often ignore the concept of equity versus equality, a topic I posted about in-depth before. The goal is to provide everyone with an equal opportunity, and that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is treated the same. Someone with a handicap needs accommodations to be able to do the things the abled can already do. The same is true for non-Whites in America, where they require things like race-based organizations, advocacy groups, months focusing on their history, and laws that discourage racist practices… all so they can get the same opportunities that Whites usually have. It’s not racism to require special treatment so non-Whites can have equal chances and to level the playing field; these are done because of racism, even if new problems may arise.

Also, that doesn’t mean that all Whites have opportunity and equity. There are still many other factors besides race that can cause oppression and injustice. Economy, crime, politics, etc. can all cause problems, and even the aforementioned race-based legislation or organizations may contribute (whether accidentally or not). The point of racial acknowledgement is not to deny the issues faced by others because of class, faith, etc… but to focus on the very real issues that exist because of race.

Also important is this: no one is asking you to feel guilt over racial issues because you’re White. Do you feel guilt because you can reach the top shelf and your wife can’t? Do you take it personally whenever a Sarah McLachlan ad about animals comes on? Well, you shouldn’t necessarily feel guilt… but I certainly hope you still feel. You acknowledge something in those cases, from the smallest home problem to the largest social issue, and you probably act. You buy a footstool for the height challenged or you feel anger or sadness at pet abuse. If you can recognize these issues, experience some sort of non-guilt emotion, and possibly change your perception or actions… why is it so hard to do the same because of racial issues?

The point of acknowledgement is not to continue the racial divide, make an issue out of a non-issue, or “oppress the majority”. The whole purpose of racial recognition is to help create a better society, one that is more open-minded and inclusive and strives to prevent racism. By sticking our heads in the sand and turning our back on the issue as if it doesn’t exist, we only contribute to the problem. A popular movie once said, “there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

Dear White friends, no one is denying your experiences, your problems, or your identity. So, why would you do that to others?

The Untouchable Nature of America’s Police

Police Chokehold Death-1

Recently there has been a disturbing trend where police officers involved in questionable, and possibly illegal behaviors, have been able to avoid so much as an indictment. Many people think this means they were found “not guilty”, but it’s even worse than that. An indictment is not confirmation of a defendant’s guilt, it’s simply an accusation that the individual might be guilty, and thus the case is worthy of being looked at in a court of law. The indicted individual remains “innocent until proven guilty” but there is the possibility of a wrongdoing.

This is why recent events are so frustrating. If we can’t even accuse a police officer of wrongdoing, whether from witness testimony (no matter how conflicting) or from outright recorded video of questionable behavior… how can you guarantee anyone’s freedom or safety? None of these attempts at grand juries would have convicted anyone, they just would have stated the situation was questionable and the courts should look into it. Instead, though, the officers in question (who may have had histories of similar or related behavior) are able to walk free without so much as an allegation on their record.

Sadly, I blame this on two factors:

1) Nepotism – Courts need the police to cooperate. Sometimes this is done amicably, other times it’s done through favors. And what better favor than to not even try to indict a cop? Thus the criticism in one recent case about the prosecutor not even trying to prosecute and actually doing the defense’s job for them. This quid pro quo approach combines with the “Brothers in Blue” mentality, maintaining an unethical and broken system that rarely convicts one if its own. Who watches the watchers, especially when those who would refuse to do so?

2) Ignorance – Too many people in the majority have no critical thought and objectivity when it comes to social issues. Whether refusing to accept their “privileged” positions in society, unable to see their own bias, or simply incapable of seeing beyond their own white-washed world… these individuals are the worst people to make decisions about these sorts of cases. And yet our grand juries involving racially-charged cases are often created unequally, stocked with this same short-sighted and biased majority. I find it amusing that many associates find fault with Women’s Rights panels made up completely of men, but can’t see the problem with a case that involves minorities and a grand jury that consists of 75% white people.

This is why people are in such an uproar. This is why people are protesting. Hell, other than the criminally-minded in a group, this is why people are rioting. Because nepotism and ignorance trump justice and equality.

Last I checked, those latter two were supposedly the foundations of our country. I guess that’s only for the racial majority, though.

A Dystopian Utopia

Diversity in the 80's and 90's

I said I would discuss the visions my peers and I had of a racially and ethnically mixed future. These ideas have affected my perceptions of recent behavior among younger individuals that I consider extreme and divisive. I wondered if this was something unique to myself or an open-mindedness held by my “generation”. I say that last term loosely, because we are considered Generation X yet most of us are caught somewhere between them and those that follow. The events of my age cohort, plus personal experiences, have likely created a unique outlook on these issues…

First, let’s start with my home life. I was raised in a Caucasian suburban household by Caucasian parents from Caucasian families. One side came from rural, working-class Western New York… the other were middle-class transplants from New York City out to the country. One common tie between both was high intelligence and a focus on education. Both parents were college educated and so were my maternal grandparents; although my paternal grandparents weren’t, they were both smart individuals and my grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades and generalist. I lay this out to show that the first things my families taught weren’t racism or division, but to be open to learning and to think critically about everything. Despite starting my life in a predominantly Caucasian culture, I never thought about race or ethnicity until much later. The color of someone’s skin or the accent of their words were no different than their height or whether they were left-handed.

Flash forward to growing up in a suburb of Washington, DC where the demographics were about to experience a major shift. All through the 80’s I’d grown up knowing mostly Caucasian kids from my neighborhood but being just as friendly with anyone. Despite being bussed to schools in poor Black neighborhoods, my interactions were mostly confined to my gifted programs and I still was ignorant of any divide. A friend was a friend, regardless of their race or ethnicity; by the time I was in Middle School, I had friends who were Black, Asian, and Indian and that was just who they were.

The late 80’s, early 90’s saw a serious shift, not only in my environment but in my experience. Prince George’s County changed from 37% to 51% Black almost overnight as families moved out from Washington, DC. Unfortunately, instead of blending together, a great “White Flight” occurred, with areas that used to be mixed suddenly dominated by African-American residents. Many of these were working class or poverty-stricken families, and with them followed negative changes. Shopping centers began catering solely to Black clientele, youth participation in gangs and drugs caused crime to rise in quiet suburban neighborhoods, and a venomous attitude toward Whites created a hostile environment. A new cultural movement taught African-Americans not to mix with Whites, but instead to look down upon them and cling to the African cultures that were stolen from them.

At this point, I was being bussed into a school that was 90% Black. Peers who had long been friends would no longer talk to me because of the color of my skin. I was physically attacked in my own neighborhood because a new Black gang had moved in and were asserting their dominance over the remaining White kids. In my High School I sat through classes, the only Caucasian student, as a Black guest speaker would spit vitriol toward Whites the likes of which Malcolm X would cringe at. We even had one teacher who liked to play Spike Lee movies on half days, just to kill time. I watched as other students refused to stand for the National Anthem but would jump up and roar loudly for “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, apparently ignorant of the “every” part of that title. Until I found my place and friends, I even experienced physical assaults on my person all because my race offended someone.

You would think this would drive any sane person to the same extremes being doled out. Instead, the end of High School sparked a new trend: alternative cultures. I ended up finding my place with a motley crew of artists, druggies, metalheads, punks, and other outcasts. Although still primarily Caucasian, there was room for everyone to smoke a cigarette and talk about the detritus of life. I met one of my best friends at that wall, an African-American woman who became my twin in so much and remains so to this day. This environment showed that we could all unite together under a single culture, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and sparked a new vision of the future. I wasn’t the only one who saw it, as many of these same people are still my friends today and hold the same beliefs.

As college opened up, I began to embrace the alternative lifestyles that were open to everyone. I was not a White suburban kid, I was a pagan metalhead and my friends joined me regardless of their skin tone. Alcohol (and more) flowed free at social gatherings and I found that race didn’t matter when you were working minimum wage jobs and just wanted to have a good time. My worlds expanded to areas long thought off limits racially. I would spend all night at a music festival in Baltimore, chill at a friend’s house in the tenements on Eastern Avenue, and ride with some people to pick stuff up on SouthEastern DC. Sure, I recognized the difference between my race and those around me, but to those hanging together and partying it didn’t matter. We all walked, talked, and dressed alike, no one giving a second thought to that individual of a different skin tone.

During this time, the 90’s roared on, with Hollywood and music reflecting our vision of the future. Crime, goth, and cyberpunk movies showed blended cities, where the working class and poor consisted of all races and ethnicity. The only divide was between the haves and have-nots, and my circles envisioned a society where we railed against the corporate masters… not each other. Music blended, with rock and rap, country and pop, and electronica invading everything. There was no white or black music, anyone could rise in any genre and all music could find its mix. Our language reflected this, with no “Ebonics” or “AAVE”, but instead a language we referred to as “DC” or “PG”. Dialect was not based on skin tone or ethnicity but on location and experience. When we looked to the future we knew we had a lot of bleak problems, but racism was not supposed to be one of them.

Move on to today, and suddenly racism is back in the topic. A half-Black President brings the worst out in people, sparking more outrage and lies from opponents than any previous office holder. Courts in southern states defend perpetrators of race-based crime, when you thought they’d learn their lessons decades prior. In the midst of this, many younger generations become so outraged they retort with similar behavior, creating further racial and cultural divides in the name of “holding on to their heritage”. They claim people aren’t allowed to talk or act like them, because it’s “appropriation” and deride those who don’t agree with their vitriol or isolation. Worse, they claim that the sins of European colonization past preclude any Caucasians from having valid complaints or opinions… and in so doing, end up guilty of the same behavior they rail against.

What happened to that vision of my age cohort? This blending of races, ethnicity, etc. into a singular entity. We were separate based on beliefs or finances, never on the color of our skin or our heritage. Yet suddenly the divide comes back and we stand here, confused at the behavior not only of the racists that lied dormant for decades but also at our own younger peers who seem to oppose a blended society as vehemently as White supremacists. Is there hope to move past this momentary set back and return to a unified path? My hope is that our vision isn’t dead but simply waylaid by other issues. Resolve those and once more the concept of Black, White, Asian, etc. culture will fade and we’ll go back to joining as a singular, global society. Oh, it won’t be perfect, full of environmental disasters and corporate greed, but it will be our own little dystopian utopia as far as race is concerned.