George Romero, the opposite of a racist

Most people I associate with are (to my knowledge) not racists.  But it seems to me that,
The opposite of a racist.
Pictured: The opposite of a racist.
within the category of “not racist,” there are two subsets I think of as “active nonracists” and “passive nonracists.”
    
Active nonracists note the presence of race (and sex, and class, and ethnicity) when they’re dealing with people, but make a point to be respectful of cultural differences.  These people marinate in diversity-seminars, sensitivity trainings, and ethnic history months.  These people, it sometimes seems to me, are nonracists by drawing attention to race.
    
Passive nonracists, on the other hand, don’t even notice race.  When they learn that someone is white, or black, or Asian, or Hispanic, they assume nothing about the person.  They don’t even see race as an issue.  (After all, why should it be?)
    
George Romero, the most famous director of zombie films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead) falls into this second category.  However, because he is praised so frequently for his exemplary creative work, people forget to laud him for his breathtaking lack-of-racistness, in an industry (movies) that plays on race-stereotypes to this day. 
    
Romero cast Night of the Living Dead, his first film, in 1968.  You’d think, with all the race-riots, bus boycotts, and political assassinations going on during this time, that he would at least be thinking about the race of his lead actor. 
    
You’d be wrong. 
    
As is well documented, Romero cast an African-American actor, Duane Jones, for the lead role of “Ben” in Night of the Living Dead simply because he came in and gave the best audition.  That was all there was to it.  He was the best man for the job, so he got it.  Romero was so not-racist that he didn’t even see that having a black actor would change the way his film was perceived.
    
The rest of the country was not as enlightened as he. 
    
Many viewers assumed that Ben’s race was part of the film’s message, and interpreted the film’s conclusion (in which Ben is mistaken for a zombie and shot) as an allegory for lynching.  Even the purportedly-progressive New York Times, in its review of the film, described Duane Jones’ character as a “resourceful Negro.” 
    
I can almost see Romero flinching as he read that.  Ben wasn’t supposed to be a resourceful Negro, he was supposed to be a resourceful man.  The character’s race had nothing to do with the plot of the movie.
    
Perhaps because of this attention, Romero did tackle the issue of race in many of his subsequent zombie films.  However, it gives me faith in humanity that, in 1968, someone had such confidence in the ability of humans to transcend petty issues of racial difference, that he could make Night of the Living Dead. 
    
Final thought:
It strikes me, as I write this, that there is no word for the opposite of a racist.  “Un-racist?”  “Not-racist?”  “Unprejudiced?”  These all negate racism, but with a negative.  Where is the word for someone who does not see race as an issue at all?  Maybe the word for that should be “Romero.”
    
People could use it like:
    
“Dude, did Bill assume you were good at math just because you’re Asian?”
    
“No way, man.  He’s totally Romero.”

Zombies: My part in their advancement

Greetings!

Me
Me

I’m Scott Kenemore, author of The Zen of Zombie (and the forthcoming Z.E.O.).

I wanted to start this blog to share thoughts I have about zombies, and interesting zombie stuff I find out about.

I find myself prompted to talk about zombies so frequently (and I consume so much zombie-related media) that I am confident I’ll be able to keep these posts interesting and relevant.  For example, I’m already excited to share my thoughts about the underrated Return of the Living Dead, about George Romero’s vital contribution to the dialogue surrounding race in America, about lost zombie-gems I’ve encountered in my travels, and about the zombie-related trends I see coming in the future.

I believe I am not alone in thinking our culture is about to enter a “Golden Age” of the zombie, in which zombies will become more mainstream, but also more mature and relevant than they have ever before been. 

It is an exciting time to be “alive.” 

Welcome All,

– Scott Kenemore

The virtual home of writer Scott Kenemore