Racism in “The Walking Dead”

A striking moment of racism in "The Walking Dead"
A striking moment of racism in “The Walking Dead”

Growing up in the South, I unfortunately was not shocked by the glaring racism of “The Walking Dead.” Kenny’s assumption that Lee can pick a lock because he is “urban” (which Kenny’s mind means black) and Lee’s implicit fear that Lee will rape Clementine or his daughter Lilly serve as two major examples of racism toward blacks in the game. I was pleased that the videogame included this racism, because racial prejudice is part of daily life in America, especially in the South. However, I was disturbed that Kenny never truly apologizes for his racism outburst. Kenny blames his Florida upbringing for his remark, saying that sometimes “crazy shit just comes out of [his] mouth sometimes.” Although it is advantageous to be friendly with Kenny due to their situation, I had hoped that Lee would ask Kenny to fully apologize for his comment. Kenny’s refusal to express remorse emphasizes his belief that blacks are inferior to whites.

Kenny assumes that Lee can pick a lock because he is “urban”:

While Kenny notoriously expresses his racism in this one scene, Larry voices his prejudiced beliefs on several occasions. In addition to punching Lee in the face (which knocks him unconscious), Larry brutally threatens Lee soon after meeting him: “I know who you are, and I don’t give a shit about what happens to you, but if anything happens to my daughter or that little girl you got with you, you watch your ass.” Larry also blames African-Americans for supposedly relying upon the welfare system when he shouts at Lee (who warns his group to not eat human flesh), “You don’t have the decency to take a handout when you’re offered one!” The fact that Larry has served as a U.S. army commander might suggest that the creators of “The Walking Dead” believe that the American military often struggles with racism. Larry’s age suggests that he might have fought in the Vietnam War, which saw the largest proportion of African-Americans in a U.S. war, which provoked great racism from white soldiers.

Larry accuses African-Americans of depending upon the welfare system: 

The writers of “The Walking Dead” also weave racism into the storyline in the suggestion that a jury wrongfully convicted Lee of murder, as blacks are far more likely to be convicted of crimes than whites. This detail is supported by the fact that the game encourages the player to believe Lee’s claim that he was in a fight with the senator (who was having an affair with his wife) and killed him by accident.

0 thoughts on “Racism in “The Walking Dead”

  1. Andrea actually pointed me towards your post when I mentioned that the game was free from racial issues, so thank you for setting me straight. However, although I did forget about Kenny’s blatant racist commentary, I do disagree that Larry was being racist. Though Larry was an all around ridiculous character, I feel that the majority of his responses were appropriate considering that all he knew of Lee was that he was supposed to be in prison for murder. I didn’t really notice Larry’s handouts comment so I’ll replay that scene later, however the other two comments don’t seem to be motivated by racism considering Lee’s circumstances.

  2. I also saw Larry’s comment about watching Lee’s interactions with Lily and Clementine (and Hershel’s asking if Clem knew Lee) as more about the fact that Lee, who blatantly tells people that he is not her father, is a strange man with a little orphan girl. I actually appreciated that Herhsel checked in with Clem and while Larry’s was a bit much, I still don’t interpret it as being caused by race but gender presentation. I didn’t catch Larry’s comments either but I’ll be replaying later on, so I’ll keep an ear out as well.

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