Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The water's coming...

This weekend I watched Spike Lee's documentary, "When the Levees Broke" about Hurricane Katrina. It combines interviews with residents, politicians, and artists along with news and personal camera footage. It was so good and so hard to watch. Once again, I found myself astounded at the institutional oppressions against people of color and poor people -- it's just so blatant -- I still don't understand why all of us aren't in the streets screaming about it.

One thing I was disappointed with, however, was how the documentary brushes over the reports that women and children were being raped inside the Superdome. What they do talk about is the fact that the police sheriff had incorrectly been told his adult daughter had been sexually assaulted at her workplace (a hotel across the street from the Superdome), and he "freaked out" and started telling media outlets that "children are being raped here." The sheriff is interviewed during the documentary and states he over reacted in the hopes of getting more resources from across the country. A few other folks are also shown saying that nothing of the sort ever happened.

But, really -- is that it? It seems to me, and I know that I think a lot more about this than the average person, that when you have thousands of people at their worst, sexual violence closely follows. These folks were trapped inside the Superdome for 4-5 days without water, bathrooms, food, and answers... At the same time, children of all ages, whose parents or guardians had died or who'd they been separated from, are relying on the compassion of their community members. Is sexual violence in that scenario really that hard to imagine?

I'm in no way suggesting that there wasn't tons and tons of compassion happening within those walls; I would have just liked it if that piece could have been explored more -- especially since it did get so much new coverage at the time.

Anyway -- please, watch this movie.

1 comment:

Linda said...

I really want to see this movie but I bet it is hard to watch.

I don't really have examples I can pull off of the top of my head but I am just going to say that I am not suprised at how Spike Lee handled the issue of sexual violence in the SuperDome. It almost sounds from your description that he was more interested in discounting that it happened at all. I think he and his film making are full of misogynistic undertones, honestly. It's one of those sticky spots where I can see that he doesn't want to stereotype black men as violent or aggressively sexual, but in ignoring it, glossing over it and discounting something as horrible as Katrina, he is really hurting women.

Why didn't he seek out some survivors? Certainly there had to be reports of rape after the fact.

that's my .02 anyway. feel free to disagree!