Societies Influence in Body Image

Body image is a very controversial topic regarding how people are expected to look, in order to be deemed, “pretty” or “handsome.” What do you think of when you hear the word, “normal” or “perfect?” Octavia B. Butler, and Percival Everett wrote about two very different perspectives of looking different than the ideal image. On one hand you have accepting people but on the other, you have people who whisper and gossip and do not accept anyone a little bit different from them.

In Clay’s Ark, when Blake first saw the people infected with the disease he had said, “Green Shirt, shorter and smaller-boned, did not look healthy himself. He was blond, tanned beneath his coating of dust, though his tan seemed oddly gray. He was balding…A sick man(Butler, 461).” Blake is describing how Ingraham looks, but later he will figure out that everyone who is infected with the disease looks like Ingraham. The people with the disease are a gray-pale color, they are constantly sweating, and they are very thin so even their clothing looks baggy. While reading Clay’s Ark, I constantly thought to myself how different the infected people look from the rest of the world and how scared Blake, Keira, and Rane must be. The more I read, the more I started to understand that they may look weak and sick, but they are people just like Blake, Keira and Rane. Then I felt guilty for judging them for not looking how the world had deemed “normal.” The world has made it so normal to judge people that dont all look and act the same and I fell for it and judged people who would not look like me. The infected people stayed in an isolated community, which I understood because if they didn’t then they would just infect more people. But as we dug deeper into the book I found myself thinking of what it would be like to live in a community like this one, where everyone looks the same. Living in a community where everyone looked pretty similar had its benefits, for example no one worried about how they look because they all looked just as gray and sick as each other. This made me think of Keira and why she didn’t really mind being in the community with Eli and the others. “Keira had been pretty once-when she was healthy…the doctor had turned to old-fashioned chemotherapy. This had caused most of her hair to fall out. She had lost so much weight that none of her clothing fit her properly. She could see herself fading away(Butler,460).” Keira had leukemia and looked just as sick and weak as Eli and Meda and Ingraham do. Keira didn’t mind being in that community because she understood how it felt to be stared at and judged and in the community, everyone looked just like Keira.

In Zulus, Alice Achitophel wasn’t as lucky to find people that understood her as Keira did. Percival Everett used words such as “wide, enormous, and fat” to describe Alice. Alice was a very kind woman who was constantly judged because of her weight, no one really cared to get to know Alice and just knew her from her size. “The old woman would call the fat police or some-damn-body like that and they would take Alice Achitophel away to a reduction camp and they would find out that she was pregnant(Everett, 19).” In this quote, Alice is talking about the lady that lives in her neighborhood, Mrs. Landers. Mrs Landers does not like Alice and thinks of her as a nuisance, and judges her for her size. “No one ever sat next to Alice Achitophel, not even for warmth on such days as this, and the riders had long ceased casting suspicious and accusing looks her way, so she thought of herself as being alone on the tram, thought of it as her tram(Everett, 21).” No one is sitting next to Alice on the tram and instead, choose to stare at her and mock her. This makes me realize how awful it must feel for Alice because she has done nothing wrong. She is just trying to sit on the tram and get to her destination but the other people on the tram and not welcoming to her. The one person who did not care about Alice’s size was Theodore Theodore, “Theordore Theodore did not shake his head when he looked at Alice Achitophel, nor did he look away(Everett, 22).” Theodore Theodore respected Alice and perhaps knew how it felt to be stared at and have people constantly whispering about him. Theodore Theodore did not fit society’s idea of the “norm” either. Theodore Theodore was very short, under five feet but he spoke with confidence, although he did have a high voice, he spoke loud, directed at people instead of a situation. Theodore Theodore may have not looked like everybody else but he knew how to carry himself to get the respect he deserved. Alice lacked confidence and always thought very low of herself, when Theodore Theodore compliments her about her dress, she felt anxious and “upset that he had even spoken to her(Everett, 23).”  Alice was so used to being ridiculed that she was so self conscious about herself that she did not understand why Theodore Theodore spoke to her, let alone compliment her. Later in the book, Alice met with Body Woman Rima. Body Woman Rima treated Alice like she was not a human being, Body Women Rima called Alice filthy and said, “The smell is dreadful…We’d best be careful, it might be harmful for us to breathe it in for too long(Everett, 90).” Body Women Rima was examining Alice to see if she was pregnant but Alice knew she was dirty due to the fact that she had been traveling. Alice asked to bathe but Body Women Rima completely ignores Alice and continued to make crude comments like these. I felt bad for Alice while reading Zulus, because no one deserves to feel like Alice did in a majority of the book. Society took Alice because she did not look like everyone else and was a little bit different, and made her feel ashamed of herself.

While reading Zulus, and Clay’s Ark, it was so interesting to compare the difference of how people were treated Alice to how Eli and the other people accepted each other and were there for each other. Eli had a whole community, while Alice had no one except herself to get through their tough times. While reading these two books I compared it to the world today, so many famous people get surgeries and have so much money to change how they look to make themselves look like their idea of perfect. But then the everyday people who idolize them start to feel like they need to look like that or they are not pretty or handsome. Society tricks people into thinking they are not good enough and I think it’s time that this ends.

Bones

When I think about the word bones, I automatically think of the TV Show Bones. In the show, Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who works at the Jeffersonian Institution and also writes books, has an impressive ability to read clues from victims’ bones. Consequently, law enforcement calls her to assist with investigations when remains are so badly decomposed, burned, or destroyed that standard identification method are useless. Brennan often finds herself teamed with Special Agent Seeley Booth, a former Army sniper who mistrusts science and scientists when it comes to solving crimes but who has developed respect for Brennan, both professionally and personally. With this tv show, there is no questioning the purpose of Dr. Brennan “Bones” and Agent Booth; they are alerted that there has been a dead body decomposed, which leads to a murder case, that they need to close for the greater good. With that being said, a question arises. Should scientists be allowed to examine newly discovered bones in order to identify them and turn their death into a museum memorial area? In the book Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson and the article “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center” by Nina Golgowski. Together we will see if scientists should have that allowance to identify bones.

In the article “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center” by Nina Golgowski speaks on how researchers found a grave with as many of 7,000 bodies beneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center on their campus. It is noted that land was apart of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum until it was shut down around 80 years ago. Dr. Molly Zuckerman speaks with Nina on how the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum institutionalized up to 35,000 patients between 1855-1935. Additionally, when the center was open, death was common, many patients died from tuberculosis, strokes, heart attack, and occasional epidemics of yellow fever and influenza, which was common during that time. However, one of the biggest things about this article is people wanting to find their ancestors on records and know what families will do when they repair their family lineage. For example, Karen Clark was able to find one of her ancestors who went through the center. “…one patient was her great-great-great grandfather, Isham Earnest, who fought in the War of 1812, a conflict between the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Earnest is believed to have died at the facility sometime between 1857 and 1859. It followed Earnest being ruled “insane,” said Clark”. With this finding, came many others in hopes of finding their ancestors. In this, Dr. Molly Zuckerman wants to be able to have a research team unbury all the coffins and identify all the remains. They were planning on creating a memorial, visitors center, and genealogy research facility. There is a glaring example of discovery and the decision to examine and identify the remains to discover a bigger purpose. Why can’t researchers gain permission to ask for consent? Give remains to the family so they can peacefully be put to rest.

Another example is the book Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson. Nelson takes her readers into the background of Fortune before his bones were in the Connecticut Museum. Fortune was a husband, father, baptized Christan, and slave. He works the land hard, from the examination of his bones, he was a strong man, but due to work, his back broke, and he endured pain for many years. Nelson makes it clear that he was a useful man, in both in life and death. A slave, stripped of his name. Slaves in Waterbury were buried in one of the town’s cemeteries, but when Fortune died, he was not buried. Fortune’s owner, Dr. Porter, was known as a bonesetter for many years and finally got an opportunity to study from a skeleton. With his bones, he studied them, inscribing them with their scientific names. “In profound and awful intimacy, I enter Fortune, and he enters me.” (Nelson, 19) It is with the irony that a slave master examines his slave’s bones, knowing the pain and hard labor he’s put him through to only dehumanizing him even more by taking his bones. Throughout generations, Fortune bones have been studied and used has first-hand medical training. His bones were used so much, to the point Fortune’s name was forgotten for a century. His bones were referred to as “Larry.” Even after the Porter family gave the bones to the Mattatuck Musume, he was still heavily examined, and researchers found Fortune’s names. Researchers learned he died from something quick, a sudden injury like whiplash. He died freely. With all this information, the question remains, should scientists be allowed to tests on bones?

As I have analyzed both readings, I have realized researches should test for the identity of the unknown remains, but they should give them back to the family to lay them to rest. I came to this conclusion due to the need to give back their voice. With no name, no identity there is no voice. When you attach a name to the remains, the family can give that person a voice and fill the lost family lineage. When it comes to the article, I can agree on identifying the remains but not turning the discovery into a museum to gain profit. When the bones no longer become personal but profitable, that’s where I disagree. With Fortunes Bones, his whole story has been about personal gain for others. A man whos lost his voice. He is a prime example of what we, as humans, should not do to one another. The dead should be at peace if they should not be, why do we say RIP… Rest in Peace.

In-Groups and Out-Groups

This semester at Geneseo, I am taking COMN 103, Intro to Interpersonal Communication. As a Communication major, this course is a requirement, but in taking it, I have begun to believe everyone should take it if they are presented with the opportunity to. This course has taught me information on how to be a better communicator with my interpersonal relationships, and it has also taught me why individuals and groups communicate in the ways that we do.

One concept that we learned about was the pairing of in-groups and out-groups. Personally, I had heard about these groups before, but it was during this class when it clicked how relevant they were in so many different ways. According to the textbook for this class, Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication, in-groups are the groups to which we identify as a part of, and out-groups are those that we view as “different” than ourselves, or those that we do not feel as though we are a part of. The concept of the two distinct groups, I believe, appeared as a constant theme of Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark, especially in the manner that certain members of the Maslin family behaved throughout the duration of the novel.

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Society and Racism in Zone One

What is society? Merriam Webster defines society as “a community, nation or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities or interests.” In other words, society is made up of people and the culture that they establish. Culture is made up of everything that people create whether it is art, music, entertainment, fashion, and many more aspects that make up the daily lives of people. Society and culture are social constructs that are developed by people to enhance the everyday lives of people. These are things that seem important and concrete to members of society. Colson Whitehead, in Zone One, describes what happens when society falls apart.

The Last Night marks the end of the civilized non-zombie society when the plague is released and tears throughout the world. Whitehead constantly refers to the pre-zombie society with a sense of fragility. In retelling the memories of Mark Spitz on The Last Night, Whitehead describes Mark’s family home and behaviors of his parents as mundane and material. The parents were normally focused on “every room, every reconsidered and gussied square foot, was an encroachment into immortality’s lot line.” Like the rest of society, Mark Spitz and his parents were consumed by culture and felt safe and secure in the societal roles. They placed value on material things that society valued. However, the “twin leather recliners equipped with beverage holders”, carried no value after Mark Spitz walked in on his mother chewing on the intestines of his father. Society had fallen.

Throughout the entire story of Mark Spitz finding his way in this new world, Whitehead consistently reminds us of how the old society has died and a new society has taken its place. The American Phoenix is the name given to the post-infection society. The phoenix is used to symbolize the attempt to reboot society and restore it to its former glory. The government in Buffalo hopes for a return to the past and does not consider the changing circumstances of the world. Human nature is resistant to change as Whitehead explains that the “tendency of the human mind, in periods of duress, to seek refuge in more peaceful times, such as a childhood experience, as a barricade against horror.” People hold on to what they know, even when the entire world has changed around them. The people of Zone One try to find hope that eventually society will return to what it once as even though that is an impossibility. Society cannot return to what it once was it needs to change and adapt to current situations.

I could not help but connect the social constructs of society to the idea of race. Returning to Geraldine Heng’s definition of race in The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, “ that race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content.” Race, like society, is a social construct put in place by people of social influence. Racism is a purely social idea that is used as an attempt to explain obvious human differences and is not based on concrete evidence. The collapse of society in Zone One is analogous to the abolishment of slavery. Both are monumental changes in society, the plague in Zone One had a negative impact while the end of slavery had a positive impact. In both cases, due to the nature of human beings, there were people who held on to the old ideals of the outdated society. As Whitehead points out, if the change in society causes duress, humans return to ideals of past times. This may be a reason that racism remains present in our society today.

 Persons of power during the time of slavery became accustomed to the organization of races.  Even with changing circumstances in the world, there are people resistant to change, which makes racism difficult to truly eradicate. There were many people that belonged to a society that racial distinctions were an accepted part of society. Even after the major societal change many of these individuals held on to the previously accepted ideas. Unfortunately, the racist beliefs were passed down to children and to subsequent generations. The human nature to hold on to past beliefs after times of change is a major reason that I believe racism remains in existence today. Racism is an intangible idea that will remain in the world until individuals who perpetuate the ideas are able to recognize the fact that it is no longer a sanctioned aspect of society. I believe Whitehead is trying to convey the idea that people need to fight against societal ideals of the past, and that the world changes and we need to change with it.  

Zone One Has a Meaning

During my time in ENGL 101 with Dr. Beth McCoy, I have had an eye-opening experience with the reading she has assigned, especially with the novel Zone One by Colson Whitehead. I’ve expressed, even a few classmates expressed the difficulty of the book. Zone One takes place over the course of three days; people throughout the novel are infected by a virus that turns them into zombies, which can be transmitted by scratch or a bite. Also, the main character Mark Spitz becomes a volunteer to take care of the leftover and so-called “less harmful” zombies called “skels.” The reason why this novel is difficult to grasp as a reader is due to the context and organization of the story. While the book is primarily told in real-time, Whitehead has Mark Spitz go through these random flashbacks throughout his time in reality. As a reader, that’s confusing for me to decipher between reality and the past, which leads to context. If I am already confused about reality and time, how will I fully grasp the plot and meaning behind the reading?

But recently, I was able to grasp an idea of the true meaning of Zone One. In the blog post, “The Pressing Problem of American Income Inequality: An Analysis of Zone One and the Washington Post” by Jack Mckeown, which connects Zone One and The Washington Post article “The Painful Truth about Teeth” by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. In the blog post, Mckeown notes both readings demonstrate the social tensions in American society induced by economic inequality. With the Washington Post, Mckeown analyzes how Jordan and Sullivan focus on a working-class American citizen Dee Matello. Matello visited the free dental clinic in the Wicomico Civic Center with a thousand other people due to the lack of insurance from an employer or government aid, as well as the expensiveness of dental care. Matello expresses how there is a great divide between the upper class and the lower class Americans. “The country is way too divided between well-off people and people struggling for everything — even to see the dentist,” she said. “And the worst part is, I don’t see a bridge to cross over to be one of those rich people.” If the working class has no opportunities to have to progress economically, that starts the issues between social classes. Mckeown’s expresses that “The article additionally notes the complexities inherent in the American rich-poor divide. The pervasiveness of the U.S. hegemonic socioeconomic ideology that values the affluent over the working-class has influenced the economically disadvantaged to hierarchize one another.” He uses the example within the article “If I see someone with perfect teeth, I think, ‘Oh, man, they’re out of my league,’ ” Matello said. “Us poor people ‘status’ each other. We’re like, ‘Ah, dude, you don’t have any teeth!’ Or if you see someone with little jagged yellow stubs, you think, ‘Oh, man, you have lived here your whole life, haven’t you?’ ” Overall, when looking at the examples of The Washington Post and Mckeown’s analyzation of the article, there is a clear example of The U.S wage gap, which leads to the social divide within the country.

The Washington Post and Mckeown’s thoughts lead to the connection with Zone One and Whitehead’s purpose of the story. Mckeown uses the characters, Gary and Kaitlyn, to show the socioeconomic ideology that is portrayed in the article. Within the novel, Gary comes from an unprivileged background before the plague. With that being said, when he had to eliminate the skels, he visualizes them as the upper class and channeling his resentment toward them. Mckeown uses the example “They were the proper citizens who had stymied and condemned him and his brothers all his life, excluding them from the festivities…Where were they now, their judgments, condescending smiles?”. Saying even with this new world of equality there past life still affects their feelings toward the ones who are privileged. On the other hand, Kaitlyn, who is a “well-to-do college survivors,” envisions the skels as people who are inferior to her, stereotypically visioning them as the economically less fortunate. “She aimed at the rabble who nibbled at the edge of her dream: the weak-willed smokers, deadbeat dads and welfare cheats, single moms incessantly breeding…and those who only had themselves to blame for their ridiculous credit-card debt.” Both characters note that the economic disparity that was created between the groups of Americans lasted beyond the crisis.

Furthermore, using “The Pressing Problem of American Income Inequality: An Analysis of Zone One and the Washington Post” by Jack Mckeown to bridge a gap between Zone One by Colson Whitehead and Washington Post “The Painful Truth about Teeth” by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, there is a clear indication of the economic gap between classes, which affects how the classes socially interact with one another. I realized that not only there an issue between the working class and upper class, but there are also socio-economic issues between African Americans and White Americans. In the film Letter to the President (2005), many African American artists, politicians, and journalists speak on the period of Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush and how drugs were implemented and impacted the black community. The film expresses that crack cocaine and weaponry were implemented by the Nicaraguan drug rebels that were assisted by the U.S government. In many ways for African Americans, this was their only source of income and some only way to escape reality and hardships. With cocaine becoming one of the primary sources of income for black people, it begins the increased arrest rate for the possession of drugs. But the main concern was, why was the majority arrested and pulled over African American? Racial profiling. U.S Police would make any excuses to pull over someone of African descent if the profile is even remotely close. In some cases, police would accuse someone of being a drug dealer if you matched these ceratin requirements:
-Map in the car with a destination circled on it.
-Fabric softener in the car, trying to mask the smell of the drug.
-Fast food wrappers on the floor, meaning the person doesn’t stop, they only ate in the car, “afraid to leave the drug load.”
-High pulse rate, if someone had a high pulse rate it was because they were afraid or nervous of the cops finding the drug load in the car.
-Black or Hispanic.
With this operation going on, this gave police the legal right to search one’s car, even though this is illegal. It is the idea that because of slavery and other factors apart from American history, African Americans did not have the opportunities as others. Due to the lack of opportunities leads to drug use and drug dealing as their only way of income, even when some who don’t participate in those illegal activities will still get accused because of their skin color.

With the Washington Post, Jack Mckeown ’s Blog Post and the film Letter to the President gave me a reader who is struggling with the context of Zone One, realize that there may be more behind Whitehead’s story. That the silver lining is the social and economic difference between people in the same country. In the Washington Post, one is judged on how their teeth appear and directly associates it with their financial wealth. Mckeown makes a note of that in Zone One with Gary and Kaitlyn’s perceptions of skels. Overall I realized when society moves on and becomes equal; the past will always infringe on one’s decision. That someone’s background creates that person’s outlook on life and people. And that one will not always have the same opportunities, treatment, and stability as others. That sometimes you have to “Fuck it… and walk into the sea of the dead”.

Body Unknown: Racial Identity in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One

An important element in one’s social identity is how others view oneself, and this is for the most part within an individual’s control, or is it? In Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One, the protagonist struggles with their racial identity. The use of a zombie apocalypse provides symbolism that highlights the internal conflict the protagonist is dealing with, along with the nickname the protagonist acquires. Additionally, Coloson Whitehead’s use of the nickname for this individual and his characterization of the protagonist is conspicuously about the United States history of exploiting African Americans. 

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Traditional Medicine

I found it interesting that Zone One had so many references to Asian culture because I don’t typically see that in English books (especially not ones I’m assigned to read for class). One major one that stood out to me is the reference to the “foreign” beverage that seems to be very popular among the sweepers/soldiers. While speaking about how the Chinatown area of lower Manhattan has been restricted specifically for military bases, Mark Spitz narrates: “There was a good word of mouth about the medicinal properties of an enigmatic foreign beverage, bright emerald cans of which were piled in formidable stacks in the kitchen” (Whitehead 37). Spitz here speaks about a “foreign” drink that is said to be “medicinal,” meaning beneficial to the body. A while before this passage, Spitz narrates that they are in a ”dumpling joint” in the Chinatown area; this plus Spitz’s description of the scenery, that there were “Chinese zodiac” prints on table mats placed under “glass tabletops,” clues me in that the restaurant they are is Chinese. Because I have a Chinese background, I’m familiar with dimsum restaurants. For large tables, there’s typically this large, glass lazy susan on which food is placed; I think the “glass tabletops” Spitz refers to are the lazy susans. All these clues make me think that, because they are in a Chinese location, the “foreign beverage” is likely of Chinese origin. This means that the beverage is very likely a type of traditional Chinese medicine.

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Namesakes

Many people are often named after people in their family who their parents hold very special. My name is Ariana, a completely random name that my mom just happened to like. My middle name is Rose, a basic middle name. My mom chose my middle name because it was her Grandmothers, my Great Grandmother, middle name: Vincenza Rose. Naturally, when I found this out I wanted to know more. I wanted to know all about this woman who I was named after, and why my mother chose her to name me after. 

Fortunately for me, my Great Grandmother is still alive so I was able to meet her and get to know her growing up. I was able to learn about her childhood and I learned that I am a lot like her. My Great Grandmother came over to America from Italy when she was a teenager, she made this trip all by herself. She left her family, friends, and life back in Italy so come to America and build herself a better life. My mom compares me to her because of my strong will and drive to build myself a better life. To me, it is an honor to share a middle name with a woman as strong as my Great Grandmother. 

We can see a story that is similar to mine, and a desire similar to mine to find out who you were named after in the book Zone One. Mark Spitz, the character in Zone One is sent from Buffalo with characters Kaitlyn and Garry to Manhattan to get rid of the skels and stragglers. Once everyone else is infected, Mark is left to fight the zombies on his own. While he is fighting the zombies he gets swallowed in the groud of them. Just like his namesake Mark Spitz the Olympian, Mark Spitz at the end of his career he is swallowed in a crowd of zombies (people). He is the last member of the society to be infected by the zombies. Mark Spitz was an awfully average guy from the start. He never overachieved but he also never slacked off, he was just average. Mark Spitz is not his real name however, it is a nickname given to him. The irony behind this, as Gary points out is that Mark Spitz is black. This may not seem important at first, but Gary goes on with the racial stereotype that “back people can not swim” (287). The other ironic idea behind this is just how average Mark Spitz the character is compared to the man he got his nickname after. Mark Spitz the Olympian. 

Olympian Mark Spitz was a competitive swimmer and he won 7 Olympic gold medals at the 1972 summer Olympics (Wikipedia, Mark Spitz). In class, we watched a video of Mark Spitz in the summer of 1972 Olympics where the camera continues to pan from him swimming, to the large crowd of people cheering him on. This is a particularly important video to see and understand because of the way that Zone One ends. 

Once everyone else is infected, Mark is left to fight the zombies on his own. While he is fighting the zombies he gets “jumps”  in the crowd of them. Just like his namesake Mark Spitz the Olympian, Mark Spitz at the end of his career he is swallowed in a crowd. 

Just like I am like my Great Grandmother in various ways, the character Mark Spitz is ironically the complete opposite of the real Mark Spitz and yet their careers ended the same way. 

Are you like your namesake, or are you the polar opposite of them?

Zombies and Stigmas: a Possible Correlation

Throughout history, a stigma associated with mental illness has occurred, and over time, evolved. Back in the Neolithic age it was believed to be caused by evil spirits and today, where it is more accepted medically, it still has a stigma due to a lack of understanding from some (Caddell, 2019). There are two divisions of the stigma, one coming from an outside perspective and the other being internal or self-perceived (Caddell, 2019). In this post, I am focusing on the external stigma generated by those who have prejudiced attitudes towards mental illness. This division of the stigma generates discrimination for those who experience mental disorders. In the article introduced to me by this course, “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center,” by Nina Golgowski, it is discussed that many of the patients at the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum were buried after their passing without their loved ones being informed. The asylum was closed around eighty years ago, and the remains of those who were buried there was first discovered back in 2012. Now, the University of Mississippi Medical Center rests upon this grave site. A proposed excavation project would involve the uncovering and re-burial of those found in the mass grave site, and possibly using their DNA for identification. These patients were buried without record and without labeling, which can be seen as dehumanizing them. This poses a similar circumstance to the treatment of the zombies in our course reading of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One.

In the text Zone One, an apocalypse has taken place as a plague that has ran ramped. The plague turns humans into zombies, or in this text, they are referred to as skels. The skels are described as deteriorated, mindless, lifeless creatures. Mark Spitz, the main character who is not infected, explains the state of the skels he comes across stating, “After all this time, they were a thin membrane of meat stretched over bone…Two of them had lost their high heels at some point during the long years of bumping around the room looking for an exit” (Whitehead, 16). Through this description, it can be seen that uninfected humans in the text that encounter skels see them no longer as equals, but as a separate species of sorts. To those in Zone One who are unaffected by the plague, the skels do not register in their minds as human beings due to their physical changes brought on by the disease. This view on the skels and the brutal force put upon them to wipe them out completely, demonstrates how those taken over by the plague are being dehumanized. The skels are shown to be separated out from the rest of humanity, and when they are killed, no one takes the time to learn, let alone search, for their names or identification. As stated in the text, “He didn’t bother with names. No one cared about the names, not them, not the higher ups” (Octavia Butler, 62). This then prevents the possibility of trying to inform possible survivors of their loved ones if thy are found to be skels. In this case, the zombies are dehumanized, and the matter through which their bodies are handled after their death furthers this. At one point, the sweepers, those who go through buildings and areas to clear out remaining skels, throw the dead bodies of the zombies out of the building windows. As the sweepers go through the building, it is described, “For the first few weeks they tossed the bodies out the windows. It was efficient…It saved time and energy” (Whitehead, 74). By doing so, even Mark Spitz, a sweeper, recognized this dehumanization of the skels when the disposal team, who had to clean up the body bags discarded through the windows, spoke up about it needing to end. This is seen as it is stated, “It was disrespectful…Mark Spitz concealed that Disposal had a point” (Whitehead, 75). This example of dehumanization can possibly be related to the article by Nina Golgowski, “Up To 7,000 Bodies Found Buried Beneath University Of Mississippi Medical Center,” as those who passed away at this asylum were treated in a similar way.

At the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, many patients died and were then buried in mass graves in the land surrounding the asylum without their families ever being informed. This act of mass burial dehumanizes the patients not only through the style of burial, but also as their mental conditions could have been stigmatized by those who buried them, as they in turn, did not take ethical measures regarding their deaths. Today, a woman named Karen Clark discovered that a relative of hers passed away in the asylum and is therefore believed to be buried somewhere beneath its grounds. Her relative, Isham Earnest, fought in the War of 1812, and in the asylum, was ruled “insane”. It can then possibly be proposed that those with mental illnesses were seen as separate from those without mental illnesses, as a patient in a hospital for any other condition would of course had its family members notified of their passing. The director of UMMC’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Ralph Didlake, states, “There’s a historical stigma associated with mental illness, and that’s very true historically, but this is an opportunity for us to deconstruct that stigma by studying that experience” (Golgowski, 2017). He insinuates that those in the mental asylum had stigmas against them, which then could have possibly lead to the dehumanization of them and their burials. With this in mind, the dehumanization of those with mental illnesses can possibly be compared to the dehumanization of the skels in Zone One. The carelessness applied to the skels after they are killed by the sweepers may be similar to the mistreatment of the patients in the asylum who were buried without record and proper notification of family members. An entire medical university was even built upon the grounds of the old asylum, insinuating little knowledge regarding this mass grave site.

Overall, it can be seen that in both cases, that of the asylum patients and the skels of Zone One, a group of individuals were seen to be dehumanized through their treatment by others upon their passing. In the case of burial, various cultures and ideals practice different burial styles, but generally, the concept of a mass burial without record and identification can be seen as disrespectful. Through this analyzation of the skels in Zone One and the patients of Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, I question if a there is possible connection between the two. I wonder if there is a close parallel between Zone One and the stigma of mental illness through the representation of the skels. Is Colson Whitehead trying to draw my attention to those in my society who are dehumanized based on stigmas? I encourage my readers to ponder this thought as well.