It has been said that “when hell is full, the dead will walk the earth.” One people and one nation deserve credit for delivering a frightening genre full of suspense, chills and gruesome images of undead carnage: Haitians.
The idea of reanimated corpses – the “living undead” – finds origins in the same land where Houngan’s are reported to have taken an oath back in 1791. Pat Robertson has come under fire for inane remarks connecting this oath to the geological disaster that has befallen Haiti, completely neglecting the nightmarish existence Haitian’s lived in prior to the earthquake.
Regardless, Haiti and the Black people who live there must be shown plenty of gratitude for they bestowed the world with the idea of the zombie:
The origin of the concept of zombiism stems from Haitian Voodoo culture. The word zombie--in Haitian it is "zombi"--means "spirit of the dead." Voodoo folklore contends that Bokors, Voodoo priests that were concerned with the study and application of black magic, posessed the ability to ressurrect the deceased through the administration of coup padre--coup padre is a powder that is issued orally, the primary ingredient of which is tetrodoxin, the deadly substance of the notoriously poisonous fou-fou, or "porcupine fish." According to lengend, "a zombi(e) is someone who has annoyed his or her family and community to the degree that they can no longer stand to live with this person. They respond by hiring a Bokor..to turn them into a zombi(e)." (Keegan, www.flmnh.ufl.edu)
Once they had been issued the coup padre, the subjects being prepared for their descent into zombidom would appear to die insofar as their heart rate would slow to a near stop, their breathing patterns would be greatly subdued and their body temperature would significantly decrease. The public, thinking that the person was dead, would bury him/ her as if they were a corpse. They would then be exhumed, still alive, by the Bokor and, although their physicality remained intact, their memory would be erased and they would be transformed into mindless drones. "Though still living, they remain under the Bokor's power until the Bokor dies." (Keegan, www.flmnh.ufl.edu)"
Black people in Haiti (Haiti is almost 100 percent Black and has been since the people slaughtered European’s in the 1790s) have been to known to be practitioners of voodoo and combine mysticism and magic to restore life to the dead, thus turning them into zombies:
“According to the tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the West African Vodun tradition the zombi astral, which is a part of the human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power. The zombi astral is typically kept inside a bottle which the bokor can sell to clients for luck, healing or business success. It is believed that after a time God will take the soul back and so the zombi is a temporary spiritual entity.
In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of a woman who appeared in a village, and a family claimed she was Felicia Felix-Mentor, a relative who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29. Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given powerful psychoactive drug, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information.”
From a biological standpoint, Haitians who practice voodoo and the art of zombiism, have an ally in Wade Davis as he has done extensive research in Haitian voodoo and penned numerous volumes on the subject. In Passage of Darkness: the Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie and Serpent and the Rainbow, Davis discusses the uses of certain chemical compounds to create hallucinogens and neurotoxins capable of inducing the effects of death only to allow the “zombie” to awake later.
The botanical secrets and the chemical compound formulas that create zombies are known only by the Haitian Voodoo priests, but the mysterious origins behind zombies haven’t dissuaded others from inventing their own.
George Romero of “The Night of the Living Dead” fame is credited with inventing the modern-zombie in the United States, but he owes much to the 1930s film “White Zombie”, which was appropriately set in Haiti.
We have discussed the historical nature of zombies, as the idea originated in Haiti and there, witch-doctors practiced (and still do) a form of Black magic that “can” reanimate corpses.
In the United States however, zombies take on a much different connotation, for we view them as the true undead brought back to life, consuming as much live human flesh in the process, thereby spreading the zombie virus further. Zombies - in America - are a plague that must be eradicated.
Romero, who has made a fine living directing zombie films, cast a Black person as the main protagonist in his first zombie film “Night of the Living Dead” and has since positively shown Black people in that films many sequels, most notably in the late 1970s “Dawn of the Dead.”
It is obvious to all Black people, that Romero knows the true history of zombies, and thus, must do everything in his power to remove the mystical Black magic origins of voodoo/zombies from his films and showcase Black people operating in a highly functional manner.
There is an unwritten rule in Hollywood that Romero deemed necessary when discussing zombies, for no mentioning of Haiti and Black people’s predilection and fascination with the undead can occur in film or video game.
Resident Evil 5 is a video game – it has sold more than five million copies worldwide since its release - that dares to buck the Romero Law of Zombie films, for its storyline focuses on something Black people find abhorring. Remember, that law states black people as zombies aren’t allowed, for the historical connection between the two makes them synonymous.
Remember, Black people don’t want historical accurate portrayals of them entering the general public’s mind and in an interview with N'Gai Croal of Newsweek, on the Resident Evil video game, that fact was made clear:
"It (Resident Evil 5) depicts a white protagonist going into an apparently poverty-stricken village (the location is unspecified) and killing throngs of black zombified men and women (see the trailer yourself).
Croal's first reaction to the trailer was, "Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game." He explained his thoughts on the trailer and how he would have preferred Capcom to treat it:
"It's like when you engage that kind of imagery you have to be careful with it. It would be like saying you were going to do some sort of zombie movie that appeared to be set in Europe in the 1940's with skinny, emaciated, Hasidic-looking people. If you put up that imagery people would be saying, 'Are you crazy?' Well, that's what this stuff looks like. This imagery has a history. It has a history and you can't pretend otherwise. That imagery still has a history that has to be engaged, that has to be understood. ... If you're going to engage imagery that has that potential, the onus is on the creator to be aware of that because there will be repercussions in the marketplace."
There was stuff like even before the point in the trailer where the crowd turned into zombies. There sort of being, in sort of post-modern parlance, they're sort of "othered." They're hidden in shadows, you can barely see their eyes, and the perspective of the trailer is not even someone who's coming to help the people. It's like they're all dangerous; they all need to be killed. It's not even like one cute African -- or Haitian or Caribbean -- child could be saved.
They're all dangerous men, women and children. They all have to be killed. And given the history, given the not so distant post-colonial history, you would say to yourself, why would you uncritically put up those images? It's not as simple as saying, "Oh, they shot Spanish zombies in 'Resident Evil 4,' and now 'black zombies and that's why people are getting upset." The imagery is not the same. It doesn't carry the same history, it doesn't carry the same weight. I don't know how to explain it more clearly than that.”
One thing is true from the statement above: Black people didn't work on that video game, or many others.
One note on the Romero Law of Zombie films: there was a deviation from this rule in “Land of the Dead”, one of the recent zombie pictures that depicts motor-skills and intelligence in zombies. The smartest zombie is of course a Black person.
Remember, Black people can’t be zombies, because the historical link between Haiti, Black people, zombies and human sacrifice is too real to be included in fiction.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes Black Zombies, for history shows us that the mere idea of zombies originates from Haiti and Black people and yet depicting Black people as zombies might resonate negatively with people who recall this historic fact.
We have Haiti and Black people to thank for zombies, but Black people don’t like anyone pointing out this fact out.