"Refugee" on the Run

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The word, that is.

[C]oncerns have prompted many news outlets to reevaluate their use of the word.

The Washington Post stopped using the term over the weekend, saying its use did not "fit the definition." The Boston Globe also banned it. The Los Angeles Times is taking steps to make sure it is used judiciously. The New York Times and Associated Press said they would use it on a case-by-case basis.

L.A. Times story here. My favorite spasm of incoherence comes from the woman who, to my deep regret, represents me in Congress:

"These are American citizens, plus they are the sons and daughters of slaves," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). "Calling them refugees coming from a foreign country does not apply to their status. This shows disdain for them. I'm almost calling this a hate crime."

By whatever name, Katrina's refugees need help; here's a really long list of Flood Aid charities.

NEXT: What a Bunch of Yahoos

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  1. They're fucking refugees. Get over it. Instead of the government trying to gloss over a horrible, horrible fuck-up, they need to own up to the problem and fix it. This kind of shit makes me embarassed to call myself American these days.

  2. To be techincal, in American law, a "refugee" is a legal status only foreigners have.

  3. Actually by any dictionary definition they are not refugees as they are fleeing a natural disaster they are in fact evacuees.

  4. Wow, their parents were slaves? Louisiana really is a backward place!

  5. Wow, Matt. You're being represented by a fucking bimbo.

  6. "These are American citizens, plus they are the sons and daughters of slaves," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles).

    I am sure there were some green-card-holding aliens (and maybe a few illegals, or undocumented as well) that were trapped in New Orleans.

  7. I think I'd rather be called a refugee than an evacuee. I evacuate twice a day, and I wouldn't want to be called one of those!

  8. i'm just a simple caveman lawyer, and i don't understand your mysterious ways, but....

    is a "refugee" at it's most basic level not one who seeks refuge? (see, they put the word right in there so as not to be confusing - clever, huh?)

    are folks displaced by this flooding not people who seek "refuge" and thus "refugees". did i miss something here?

  9. Eh, you can look at as many legalistic definitions as you want, but I don't think anyone is confused into thinking that refugees from Katrina are here in the US from foreign countries.

    But this sure brings out some ugly associations that many people here in this fine nation have about refugees that do come from other countries if they see it as a perjorative term.

  10. I wonder how the term "refugee" began in the first place, and why.

    My theory is that some initial correspondents saw vast numbers of people fleeing severely damaged areas, and it reminded them of the stark imagery of victims fleeing a war-ravaged city. My mental image is something like Kosovo, where there is nary a brown face in the unending stream of humanity.

    Ergo, this was an emotional assignment, not a racist one. But jesus fucking christ, that race card HAD to come up, didn't it?

  11. Now we have to have a eupemism for a euphemism; "refugee" being a euphemism for "loser".

  12. Can anyone think of recent examples where "refugee" did not mean political refugee?

  13. Refugee:

    one who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, environmental destruction, or religious persecution.

  14. Kip, the word "refugee" was thrown around a lot after the recent tsunami.

  15. I don't think "evacuee" is entirely accurate, anyway, at least not for those who cannot go back home. Maybe ever.

    Geeze, this is a weird issue for the press to take up and a bad rule to enforce on journalists. Anyone know the genesis of the decisions?

  16. Here's an article from 2001 describing Hurricane Katrina.

    Here's the key quote: "Thousands of refugees could land in Houston."

    BTW, I know quite a few refugees and they are all white or hispanic. Do people seriously think that the only black people in New Orleans have to leave?

  17. I hesitated in using the term "evacuee" because , for a time, it didn't seem like anyone was being evacuated.

    I think the appropriate term for the people who were stuck in the Superdome was "non-republicans".

  18. You're telling me that, somewhere along the line, "refugee" became a pejorative term and now I've missed my opportunity to use it as such? Geez, things move really fast these days.

  19. You're telling me that, somewhere along the line, "refugee" became a pejorative term and now I've missed my opportunity to use it as such? Geez, things move really fast these days.

    (second posting -- one thing that doesn't move fast is the Reason server)

  20. Sarafina hits the nail on the head here. "Refugee" may or may not apply to these people as a matter of common or legal useage, but anyone believing it shows "disdain" is revealing more than they intended about their own attitude towards people who are inarguably refugees - or perhaps towards people who are simply not Americans.

  21. so what are we going to do with all the shitoutofluckies?

  22. Maybe it would be OK if we just spiff up the word, give it a more "active" twist, less passive, less "helpless victim." Something hip, something "now," something internationale.

    How about "refugeurs"?

  23. Don't have to live like a refugeur?

  24. I think I'd rather be called a refugee than an evacuee. I evacuate twice a day, and I wouldn't want to be called one of those!
    Comment by: Ayatollah Usoe

    Ayatollah,
    That was my immediate thought when I heard NBC say they were going to "evacuee."

    The whole point here is to embrace refugees.
    Animal response boils down to flee or fight.
    Fleeing is far more popular and necessary. Those who think "fight" is are jive-talkin' like our Commanderer-in-Chief.

  25. Stevo Darkly,
    Amurikuns have a love-hate relation with the French. (My own relation is totally love.)
    Whatever. How about Freedom Flyers, building on freedom fries?

    Refugeur sounds too much like my ancient Kelvinator refrigerator.

  26. emtae,
    "shitoutofluckies" are just members of some sort of tobacco-aversion session.

  27. Actually by any dictionary definition they are not refugees

    According to my dictionary, one type of refugee is a person who seeks protection or shelter from danger or hardship. So, yes, they're refugees. Some of them are also evacuees, but only the ones who stayed behind and had to be rescued. The ones who left on their own weren't evacuated.

    Anyway, enough worrying about what word to use for the refugees. The real question is: what's a good word for "hypersensitive black people"? First "niggardly" and now this.

    they are the sons and daughters of slaves

    I wonder how many people honestly believe that blacks were slaves one generation ago. Probably a depressingly high percentage.

  28. In the 1930s, there were "Dust Bowl refugees" ... Woody Guthrie even wrote a song by that title.

    After 9/11 people forced from their homes near Ground Zero were also described as refugees.

    The word comes from the French French r?fugi?, past participle of r?fugier (to take refuge - shelter or protection), which in itself derives from the Latin word, refugium. Predates whatever bureacratic definition the U.N. or the State Department has for it.

  29. Re: refugeurs

    Amurikuns have a love-hate relation with the French. (My own relation is totally love.)
    Whatever. How about Freedom Flyers, building on freedom fries?

    My own relationship is about 70% hate (much of it irrational and mostly just recrational) but all antifrancopathy is suspended when it comes to things related to New Orleans and Louisiana. 'Tain't French, it's "Creole"!

    Although I do kind of like "Freedom Flyers."

    But I'm still pushing for "refugeur," and derek rose's post above just gives me more information.

  30. "information" was supposed to be "ammunition," metaphorically speaking.

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