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RZA Considers How Zombies Can Be Read as a Metaphor for Black Men in America

Coming from so hypermasculine a figure as RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame, the focus on black men to the exclusion of black of women is unsurprising.

When I first saw Night of the Living Dead, I was scared to death.  But when I watched it again at age sixteen (when they were up to Day of the Dead), I’d gotten knowledge of myself, and could relate to what it was saying about America.  The dead were alive, but they were blind, deaf, and dumb.  So to me, they were symbolic of black men in America. (44-45)

Tao of Wu
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs aka RZA

What is interesting is that his interpretation preserves the racial character of zombie films prior to George Romero’s 1968 postmodern masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. In classic zombie films such as Victor Halperin’s 1932 White Zombie and Jacques Tourneur’s 1943 I Walked With a Zombie, zombies were only black because in those films they represent the slave class.

For RZA, blackness is legible even though it’s been whitefaced and the story has been transformed into one about white zombie hordes and spoiler» the film’s black hero.

It’s a good thing 1968 is long past. White zombie masses would never rise up against their black hero here in 2010.


Rza. The Tao of Wu. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.


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