Now that we’ve read through Zone One by Colson Whitehead, I found myself comparing and contrasting the lives of the zombies to the lives of slaves from Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. There were differences in the lifestyles that people lived by before they turned into zombies and the slaves before they were used for medical research. What I found to be most interesting, were the similarities in that all the people who turned into zombies or were used for medical and scientific research after their death weren’t given the opportunity to give consent for others to exploit their bodies after they died. Regardless of how they lived before they died, their natural and moral privilege as humans to have consent over their bodies before and after death was confiscated.
Whitehead indicates that zombies are considered to be characters that go through negative experiences. Zombies inadvertently increased their population by infecting humans with their infection which causes the others to also have the urge to infect others. The lifestyles that most of the people lived by before they were infected were generally good alongside the lives that all African slaves lived since the 1800s. “The dead had paid their mortgages on time”… “The dead had graduated with admirable GPAs, configured monthly contributions to worthy causes, judiciously apportioned their 401 (k)s across diverse sectors according to the wisdom of their dead licensed financial advisers, and superimposed the borders for the good school districts on mental maps of their neighborhoods which were often included on the long list when magazines ranked cities with the Best Quality of Life.” (31)
Washington reveals a similar fact in that slave’s experienced negative treatment, which in particular situations were painful mentally, physically and/or visually. When African slaves were brought to the United States they were enslaved to work out in the fields down south in the blistering heat; they were treated unjustly. Eventually, “President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves in Confederate states,” in 1863. This allowed these people to be “free” in being able to work by their own means, marry legally, receive education, own their own homes, etc., but they still lived under “the white man’s legal system.” Their rights were still under surveillance because of the aggression of white folk who hated blacks. African American culture was configured by the slave mentality. Even after they were “freed” they were viewed as garbage.
These human beings experienced being enslaved to a modern slave mentality and to societal stereotypes. They still had to fight for rights, weren’t paid enough, were beat up, spit on and treated in various inequitable ways. African American rights were so neglected that as slaves or even after they were “freed,” they weren’t allowed to have medical attention if they were ill or injured in any form. “Enslaved African Americans were more vulnerable than whites to respiratory infections, thanks to poorly constructed slave shacks that admitted winter cold and summer heat.”(29) that simply proves to show the levels of morality that the masters had for their slaves. Another example of that happening is when a slave owner William Massie says “““Patty” had just dies “of I known not what disease… She has been saying she was sick for near a year and always tended to be sick.” No doctor was ever summoned to investigate…””
I found that the neglect only gets worse when scientific researchers used their bodies after their death for research that was helpful in finding cures to diseases, learning more about the human body, acknowledging the differences between different human beings, understanding genetics and the list goes on. An example where this is taken place is when Dr. Lunsford Yandell, a white research scientist states: “On March 16th, 1833, I was called before sunrise to visit a Negro woman. I took from her twelve ounces of blood… I waited about fifteen minute when she had a severe convulsion.” (29) that woman had no power over her own body. It was already enough that she had no control over the system during the time period but to have no control over your physical body is torturous.
The problem is that they didn’t consent to give their bodies up for research. In today’s day and age, consent is mandatory for every action doctors or scientists partake in doing to you when you’re alive and when you are dead. It’s only morally right because people have different beliefs and religious perspectives about the afterlife and care about what happens to their bodies after they die. Compared to Zone One, zombies had their lives taken away just as slaves did from the moment they were born in to the system where if you had any percentage of black in you, you were a slave.
Both zombies and slaves had their lives changed drastically and dealt with negative experiences.
Consent establishes your choice of whether you accept what one person or a group can do to you entirely. If consent were considered by the research scientists, the information in scientific and history textbooks would be switched around. If consent were considered by the zombies who infected other humans, Zone One would be a complete different story.