In my morning paper, I read that refugees from the storm don't much like the word "refugees" as the story linked to the title of this blog suggests. The problem is that the word is taken by at least some of these Katrina victims as having a negative implication. Are they being oversensitive? In my experience, many if not most White people will say they are. All you have to do to see that this might be so is consult the sports message boards on the issue of whether our universities should use Indian names and logos as accouterments for their sports teams. White people in my experience feel qualified to say what is and isn't insulting to minorities in this country.
Interestingly, I also found this morning a BBC News item bearing on this issue.
In every age, schoolchildren have an armoury of words most calculated to hurt and humiliate each other.So, it seems that some of our British brethren see the word the same way.
The words change from generation to generation, but one thing usually stays the same: adults shudder with shame at the words they used as children.
Learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, Romanies: all terms now used respectfully where once euphemisms were abuse.
And now, it seems, playgrounds up and down the country are resounding with the latest taunt: Refugee.
One thing is for sure, the word "refugee" has no good connotations. I have never heard anyone say anything like I yearn to be a refugee. In the story linked through the Title of this blog, we find
For some, the word "refugee" is loaded with racial undertones, conveys too sorry a fate for the victims, or simply doesn't, in its dictionary definition, apply. For others, there's just no better way to describe the horrific condition of the hurricane victims.There would be an excellent reason for seeing "refugee" is racial terms in the New Orleans circumstance: one rarely saw a White face amongst the persons evacuated to the Superdome and Convention Center. Some 67% of the New Orleans citizenry were Black and many if not most were poor. I suspect that New Orleans was as bad as any city in the country in this respect and this is ironic in a way for the fame of this city rests more on on the musical contributions of African-Americans in the form of jazz than any other single thing, with the free flowing booze being second. To gourmands, its food is a reason to visit. .
I am not sure how these Americans who have been put out of their homes by Katrina should be referred to but I am quite sure that it shouldn't be up to me or any other White person. It is clear that "refugees" is a very bad choice on either side of the Atlantic. I would suggest that they not be referred to as "homeless." That would be a step in the wrong direction. "Displaced persons" has some left over negative connotations from WW II to some of us older people. There may not be a good term, primarily because their circumstance is so bad.
President Bush is cited in as saying
"The people we're talking about are not refugees," the president said, according to the Associated Press. "They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens."I am pleased to read of this. Actually, to be honest, I am a little shocked.