The featured image for this blog post does not come from WTLB, but rather from the widely popular television show The Walking Dead. Although I am bringing a fictional, post-apocalyptic series into my consideration of Lee’s documentary, I cannot help but notice the striking similarities between this iconic image and some of the opening and concluding footage of WTLB.
Orlando Patterson is famous for establishing a relationship between the idea of “social death” (the concept that specific members of a populace are not accepted as fully human by the wider society) and the mechanism of black slavery. With this concept in mind, we can turn to the images I was referring to in my opening paragraph and establish some connections.
With all three of these images in conversation with one another, you can probably begin to see some of the comparisons I noticed: the ominous message, the painted words, and the indication of death. Within the universe of the Walking Dead, each of the human characters discover that they all are afflicted with the post-mortem virus that has reeked havoc on the United States and quite possibly the wider world. In other words, despite their appearance as living human beings, each of the characters of the series is doomed to rise from the dead, effectively stripping away their last vestige of humanity.
In more ways than one, this idea of “the walking dead” can be applied to the poor and black residents of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina; with the government pulling resources from those who survived the initial surge of the storm, the surviving New Orleanians were no more than a collection of lives left behind, doomed to be categorized as markings on the outer panelings of dilapidated structures and above ground burial sites.