"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sticks and Stones

President Bush said:: “You know, there's a debate here about refugees. Let me tell you my attitude and the attitude of people around this table: The people we're talking about are not refugees. They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens. And the people at this table are providing that help and compassion and love.”

When we first read and heard the media referring to the people fleeing the ravages of Hurricane Katrina as refugees, we thought it an odd term to apply to the people of the Gulf Coast. But we’re used to the media slapping labels on people and wrote it off as just the usual suspects (CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NPR, AP, The New York Times, etc) trying to be dramatic.

Jesse Jackson has said: "It is racist to call American citizens refugees." As far as we can tell the term refugee is being applied to all evacuated survivors of Katrina and not to those of one particular race. Why Jesse Jackson and company have decided to proclaim the term refugee as racist we will leave to others to determine. However, if the term annoys people, we have no idea why some media outlets persist with using the term. That’s our entire opinion on the subject if anyone’s interested.

So what gives with the New Jersey Goddess?

So, you people who are whipping out your dictionaries to set Jackson straight on the meaning of the word "refugee," knock it off. Go back to school for a few courses in linguistics, semantics, and psychology. Talk to a sociologist before you write your next piece on this type of subject.

Keep in mind that many New Orleans residents who are no longer in the city need training and jobs. Many were already on government assistance and so carry the stigma of being "on welfare" in the eyes of some narrow-minded Americans. Why give the displaced a name that people associate with noncitizens of the United States? Won't we have enough to deal with considering the racial tension?

Even the conservative supporters of Enlighten New Jersey should be able to get this one and understand that what you call people is not a frivolous discussion.

The solution is to educate people not to stereotype, but as a nation, we can choose right now not to label a group of people with a name that's destined to be problematic.
Yes, even the conservatives over here at Enlighten-NewJersey were able to get this one. It’s okay to label, stereotype, judge others before you know the facts or hear what they have to say and treat others condescendingly if you’re a New Jersey Goddess.


At 11:15 AM, Blogger Sluggo said...

This kerfuffle is particularly mystifying. Not that race hustlers like Jackson are making a fuss, that's their job. But that anyone else would care whether they're called refugees, D.P.s or anything else is nothing but a distraction. My guess is that when groups aspire to 'own' an issue, they first claim the right to the vocabulary. Acquiring the moral high ground brings the ability to assign blame. There's not a lot of logic to this, but it plays well on TV.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Fausta said...

Sluggo, you put it a lot more eloquently than I could have.

As for the "even the conservative supporters of ENJ should be able to get this one", I'm flattered and honored to be regarded as a supporter of ENJ, and indeed agree wholeheartedly "that what you call people is not a frivolous discussion". I "should be able to get" a lot of stuff . . .

At 2:05 PM, Blogger STP said...

Yes, you sure don't stereotype or label without facts except for where it suits you such as in the case of your mindless drivel on government workers.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Enlighten said...

STP, would you care to provide an example from the posts of Enlighten-NewJersey to back up your comment? If you search our blog you'll find that we've stated government workers are just like everyone else. A fact you apparently disagree with.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Jack said...

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

Although the people of New Orleans are fleeing none of the above, there is no better word for them than refugees, despite their nationality. There are several coming to Montclair that I know of, I'll have to ask them what they think of this.

- Jersey Perspective

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Nordette Adams said...

I think my blog is clear on why the term refugees should be avoided (perhaps Jack should look at it since he's big on dictionary definitions). I think President Bush gets it too. Perception is sometimes everything.

I didn't mention Enlighten New Jersey in my blog piece and its supporters to put down Enlighten New Jersey but to make the point that not using the word "refugee" is probably one area where sensible people on both could agree. However, it seems you have a chip on your shoulder. Why is that? Even when someone assumes you will be understanding, you jump to the defensive.

In addition, my use of the word "conservative" did not necessarily mean that all those who support Enlighten New Jersey are conservative. It simply indicated that those who support Enlighten New Jersey and are conservative should be able to get my point. However, it's not too hard to figure out ENJ's political leanings. :-) Still, if I had a big problem with you guys, I wouldn't be part of Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. I'd send out my own press releases and ignore you.

As I said at the end of my piece on Kanye West, I am neither conservative nor liberal. I'm not even a moderate. Trying to peg me will give you headache. Don't bother. However, being black since the day I was conceived, I have a damned good idea about what labels cost people. I tend to look toward the future; therefore, I could see trouble with the label "refugee" down the road. Furthermore, I don't think anyone paid attention to the inappropriateness of the label until a so-called "black leader" pointed it out. And I'm not even sure the first one to do so was Jackson. Nevertheless, whether Jackson is right about the label being racist or not is not the point. The point is that the word "refugee" has negative connotations, and another word is preferable. I vote for the word "survivor."

It intrigues me how many people get alarmed when anyone suggests a term or policy is racist. They start hollering "race card" before they even listen to or examine why the other person feels or thinks the way they do about the issue. But as they say in the backwoods, "The guilty dog hollers loudest."

Reconciliation 101: Consider the other person may be right about your faults. Think how many marriages could be saved if both parties would do that. The whole race issue in this country goes beyond the founding of America. It's spiritually entrenched and the wounds run deep on both sides.

I think conservatives would get farther on this matter and contribute more to healing the nation if they'd stop trying to defend themselves at every turn and start trying to understand why people feel the way they do given history and circumstances. In the same way, I feel liberals would contribute more to the healing process if they'd stop assuming everyone who'd like to be wealthier in America and believes in traditional family values is evil. You guys over here really know nothing about me or my politics. Don't assume too much.

But I do thank you for mentioning me in your blog. I counted on one of you doing so. Instincts, I guess.

Tootles, y'all.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Nordette Adams said...

Oh, and one more thing, since you didn't post my entire blog post, and I wouldn't expect you to, I didn't say the term was "racist." I said it was "distasteful." But as usual, I suppose because Jackson and I both share a melanin blessing, someone jumped to the conclusion that I agreed with what Jackson said exactly. ;-) In reality, I didn't hear Jackson say he thought the term was racist. I saw him saying he didn't like the word "refugee." The Bush people apparently heard another interview. Politicians, all of them are out to cover their rears.

BTW, I interviewed the Rev. Jesse Jackson once in the back of a limo in Augusta, GA. He wasn't very dynamic nearly slouching on the seat. He was drawn and tired, could barely stay awake after hitting so many towns in one day. Quite an eye opener for me on human frailty, a lesson that our icons are just people.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Sluggo said...


I just want to make the point that the word 'refugee' does not have negative connotations if you mean that in the sense that it is derogatory. It's a hard word, a harsh word, but it refers to the subjects transiting status, not anything personal. If it fits it should be used. The individuals (black and white) who are suffering as a result of Katrina deserve the honesty of an unambiguous term. They may or may not be survivers (we'll know when this is over), but they are refugees.

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Jack said...

I think Nordette hit the nail on the head. Except that I will never have a problem with people being called "refugees", especially since, in all reality, in a couple months time, when they begin to rebuild New Orleans, we're not going to have a "survivor problem", we'll have a "refugee problem". Yet, it has negative connotations because it's a negative situation.

But what you said about the race card is true. Just turn on 770 AM anyday and you'll hear some right wing pundit blasting liberals for using the race card even if it hasn't been used.

- Jersey Perspective

At 9:41 PM, Anonymous ~Mari~ said...

"It makes me think of what my friend Rev. Goat just told me: 'Let me say this before it goes any further; New Orleans didn't die of natural causes, she was murdered.'"

-- Bluesman Dr. John

I am middle American white bread and I say this to let you know that it is not only people of color who claim this situation in New Orleans could very well have a racist basis for its neglect. I believe it does, too.

The way I see it is this:
Firstly, these people in New Orleans, whether they are Black and/or welfare recipients or not, are:

(1) Human Beings
(2) Americans
(3) Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters
(4) Welfare recipients

And their color/race simply does not matter.

They are my people because they are Americans. They are my brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers simply because they are human beings. My shit stinks just as much as theirs and their blood runs just as red as mine.

It's like this country still has a line drawn down its middle, White | Black. White on one side, Black on the other. White people wonder why Black people always cry 'racist' during certain conflicts in our society. White people claim they did not enslave anyone, don't blame them and they expect the Blacks to forget hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, discrimination (that still goes on now). But you say,"Wait a minute, the Blacks today aren't enslaved, aren't oppressed and aren't discriminated against... so what's this 'forgetting hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, discrimination?' "

(Being a Deaf person, I can tell you now that discrimination and I know each other quite well and as such, I recognize it easily in relation to the Black human.)

Nordette's parents, God Bless their lives, were born into a Segregated Nation. They had to 'sit at the back of the bus' from their youth to deep into their adult lives. They were reared during the Harlem Renaissance when the baby Black Voice was gaining tremendous strength in a variety of artistic venues. Her parents were in their forties when the Civil Rights Revolution exploded in this country. Don't you think the way they were reared influenced their parental guidance of their children? Of course it did. Just like the childhoods of White parents influence the parental guidance of their own children.

Nordette's grandparents, great and great great grandparents on were recipients of the Civil War and deep dark slavery. Stories, legends and histories were and are still passed down between generations.

When you think about the fact that there's really only been two measly generations since Rosa Parks ignited the Civil Rights Revolution by refusing to give her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, surely you can understand why Black people are so suspicious of White motivation behind catastrophes in which the Black population loses. Not enough Time has evolved without tainted generations tainting new generations. It's that simple.

The Klux Klux Klan still exists in this country in many regions, imagine that. (White parents still influencing offspring) Lynching was still a practice, albeit a lawless practice, in the deep south as recent as fifty years ago. (Again, White parents influencing off spring to keep this practice alive). As recent as fifty years ago.

Some of you may say, "I wasn't even born fifty years ago!" Guess what, nor was I. But my White, red haired mother was. So were many other Black mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, great grandparents, who experienced the lynching as recent as fifty years ago, the segregation in having to sit at the back of the bus if they were allowed to board at all, and as far back as the post Lincoln/Emancipation Proclamation era.

There are people still alive who have experienced a lynching either directly or indirectly.

Frankly, when someone spites me, I never forget and I am as White as the Ace of Spades, blonde hair and all. When someone spites someone I love, they better watch their bloody backs...

Why is it so difficult for White people to understand that Black people, Red people (don't get me started on the Native American! I could go forever, but a thought to ponder, if the Black Man and the Red Man rose together... what a formidable foe!) Yellow people, Orange people, Purple people and Rainbow people feel the same sentiments, the same emotions, the same thoughts, have the same drives, ambitions and desires that White people have?

Being human and having a long memory is not a White monopoly.

This New Orleans situation has me ashamed and flamboyantly flummoxed. Twenty First Century and this happened? Otherwise healthy babies, children, young adults dying days after a hurricane that did not damage the city, due to dehydration and disease stemming from National Neglect, the majority of these people Black and below the poverity level. What are we, with open minds, to think?

Many people may claim this is a Darwin situation, Natural disaster vs Survival of the fittest. But this only applies to the hurricane proper and those who perished. And even in this day and age of people heeding proper notification, preperations and evacuations, even less lives would have been lost to Darwinism.

In the aftermath of a catastrophe, it's how quickly science and technology and those behind these wonders respond. In the case of New Orleans, whose neglect and destruction began forty years before, I wonder if it's devastation goes beyond that of mere survival of the fittest or even racism. This reminds me more of Soddam and Gomorrah. A Higher Power's destruction of internal corruption, in spite of the innocent people and there will always be innocent people caught in the middle.

Even so, even so... With today's technology, scientific knowledge and wealth, I can't find any reason why I watched five full days of footage showing people, Americans, MY people, the majority Black, screaming, crying, begging for water and food. Why I saw footage of dead people from babies in boxes and young adults dead on sidewalks, to old folks and the infirm lining the walls of the Superdome and Convention Center.

If the reporters could get in to film all of this, why could not the water get in to these many thousands of Black people?


At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The race men are at it again, turning the tragedy of New Orleans into a morality tale about racism in America. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rep. Maxine Waters (who qualifies, despite her gender), rapper Kanye West, and a host of lesser-known black leaders and spokesmen were quick to see racism in the agonizingly slow evacuation of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Jackson compared the situation at the infamous Superdome to "the hull of a slave ship." West ranted that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Even Sen. Barack Obama, who initially said that class was the biggest factor in why many New Orleans residents failed to make it out of the city before disaster struck, seemed to blame the president for racial insensitivity. "I mean, it's puzzling, given his immediate response during 9/11, that he did not feel a greater sense of empathy towards the folks that were experiencing this enormous disaster," Obama said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

But if there was any real lesson about the effects of racism to be learned from this tragedy, it is that American generosity is colorblind. Americans of all colors have opened their hearts, their pocketbooks and their homes to those who have lost everything to nature's fury. To date, Americans have donated nearly $1 billion in private aid, and the federal government has committed an additional $60 billion to the victims, the most visible of whom were the mostly black residents stranded in New Orleans.

Even the pictures that emerged as victims were being rescued belied any hint of racism. Most of the National Guardsmen and other military personnel saving lives were white, while most of those being saved were black, not surprising given the demographics of the respective groups. Blacks made up 68 percent of New Orleans' population, but only about 20 percent of all military personnel and an even smaller proportion of National Guard troops.

But if white indifference doesn't explain why so many of those left stranded happened to be black and why it took so long to bring them to safety, what does? Government surely failed its most vulnerable citizens, but not because of race. A majority of New Orleans' black (as well as white and Latino) residents made it out of the city before the storm hit, despite the breakdown in government communication and assistance. They did so because they didn't depend on government in the first place. Those left behind were disproportionately dependent on government because of age, infirmity or poverty -- in many instances, all three factors played a role.

New Orleans has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Nearly one-third of its citizens live below the poverty line. But as Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, points out, the federal government has given billions of dollars to New Orleans' poor since George W. Bush took office. Tanner estimates that the Bush administration has spent some $10 billion in welfare assistance in Louisiana, including $1.2 billion in cash assistance and $3 billion in food stamps, as well as public housing, Medicaid and more than 60 other federal anti-poverty programs. But all that money did not buy self-sufficiency, the commodity that largely differentiated those who escaped the deluge from those who got stuck at the Superdome and Convention Center.

So where was government when its wards most needed it? Local and state government were nowhere to be seen, and not because, as some now claim, state and local officials, too, were victims of Hurricane Katrina. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, safely in Baton Rouge during the storm, admitted in an interview with CNN that aired this past weekend that she waited until Aug. 31 -- two days after Katrina made landfall -- to ask for federal troops in New Orleans. When CNN anchor Miles O'Brien asked Blanco when exactly she made a specific appeal, Blanco said: "I'm lost. . . . I don't even know what today is," finally acknowledging, "I made that request perhaps Wednesday." But surely not even racial demagogues like Jackson would argue that Blanco -- who would not have been elected governor but for black voters -- delayed deploying troops at her disposal or asking for more federal troops because those trapped were black.

Blaming racism for the fate of New Orleans in the aftermath of a natural disaster and ignoring the heartfelt generosity and commitment of so many Americans of all races to help the victims rebuild have only compounded the tragedy.


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