Is it a Privilege to Rest in Peace?

When you bury a loved one, you are able to respect them and have a tombstone with their name on it, but some people do not get this privilege. Although it seems so simple, to be able to have a tombstone, many African Americans were not fortunate enough to be remembered and respected how they deserved. This is also shown in Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. 

In Zone One, the readers do not figure out the main characters real name throughout the entire time. The nickname he is given is Mark Spitz, which we later find out was the name of a very famous olympic swimmer. Mark Spitz was described as average, “He was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked. He sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb… but his most appropriate designation would have been Most Likely Not to Be Named the Most Likely Anything, and this was not a category(Whitehead, 11).” This explains how Mark Spitz was considered mediocre which I found ironic. I found it ironic that the nickname given to him was Mark Spitz, since he was anything but mediocre. The olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, won nine gold medals and set up to thirty-five world records. But Mark Spitz name was deemed unimportant just like the “skels,” the skels were people as well and I think Mark Spitz, Kaitlyn, Gary, and the rest of the “pheenies” forget that. “He had a particular dislike for No Mas, who bragged around Wonton about his scrapbook of straggler humiliation(Whitehead, 142).” These hunters are taking pieces of these zombies as a trophy, they do not understand that at one point, and even still could be considered human and do not deserve to be treated with such disrespect. At first I forgot that they were humans at one point too, that was until I read, “Fifty-five? Can you look for IDs, Gary(Whitehead,34)?” This made me realize that they had to go through the person’s pockets and belongings to try and find some sort of identification to see who it was. I was shocked when I read this part because it did not register to me that these zombies had to have come from somewhere, they had to be people at one point of their lives. I believe that even the skels were disrespected when it came to being remembered. The skels were not given names, other than “skels,” they did not individually get remembered, after they were killed they were forgotten. They did not get a proper burial or even a tombstone with their name on it. 

While reading Zone One, all I could think about was the African Burial Ground National Monument. It is located in Lower Manhattan, New York City and is administered by the US National Park Service. According to the U.S General Services Administration, “GSA’s African Burial Ground project began in 1991, when, during a pre-construction work for a new federal office building, workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women, and children. Investigations revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, which would become New York.” These bodies did not have names attached, no one knew who they were, their families did not know that they were buried at all. In class we watched a video showing us what the Memorial looked like and I noticed giant hills in the memorial, these hills were where so many bodies were buried, and no one knew who they were. It was crazy to me to know that these families did not get closure, because they did not know that their ancestors were even buried at all. “Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill. The finding deeply impacted the descendant and broader community and, at the same time, renewed awareness in cultural significance and historic preservation.” Building the Memorial was a step in the right direction, although these people were not given the respect they deserve, today people know how wrong it is to not recognize them at all. This is so similar to Zone One because no one realized that these are human beings too. When the African Americans passed away, they were not thought of as human beings so they were just thrown away and forgotten about. These African Americans were probably not respected as they were alive and they deserve to be at rest in peace, and remembered. 

The lack of respect from the African Americans in the burial ground can be compared to Fortune’s Bones and the lack of respect he had while alive and deceased. Throughout history African Americans are ridiculed, tortured and disrespected. With the African Burial Ground National Monument, it is a step to finally give them the respect and peace that they deserve.

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