The New Orleans diaspora

Jesse Jackson objects to calling the people who have left New Orleans “refugees.” I don’t see the disgrace in it, considering that this country was built in great measaure by refugees and that refugees are people who had to flee something awful — political or natural — through no choice or fault of their own. But fine. I call them survivors.

: LATER: Steve Safran at LostRemote gives a reasoned case for why it is ok to use the word “refugee.”

: LATER STILL: Steve Baker, too, doesn’t understand the objection.

  • Robert Feinman

    Refugees someone seeking refuge.
    How about displaced persons…

  • True Enough

    However, the meanings and impressions of words change over time.

    Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law defines a refugee as:

    an individual seeking refuge or asylum; especially : an individual who has left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution (as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion)


  • chuck

    Jesse Jackson is never again going amount to much. If complaining about the word refugee is the most he can contribute, his relatives should take him from public view and find a nice home where he can spend his declining years making collages or something.

  • ajf

    I wish someone would just shoot that piece of shit. Sharpton too.

  • Terry Heaton

    The victims of the dust bowl were called Okies, regardless of their point of origin. It wasn’t a term of endearment.

  • chuck


    My grandparents were Okies. They did alright once they got to California.

  • Greg Burton

    IDPs. Internally Displaced Persons is the technical term.

  • Jersey Exile

    I think the main problem here is that “refugee” is almost always used these days to refer to people who have been displaced from their country of origin. In these somewhat nationalistic times I don’t blame fellow Americans for not wanting to be referred to by such a term.

  • Janine

    How much more anal is our world going to get? Honestly.
    Call the people displaced citizens, refugees, evacuees, survivors, or whatever you want. The sad fact is, they were all treated worse than animals. Give it any label your little heart desires. Please can’t we concentrate on what’s really important here and save the bickering for later? ya’ think?

  • chuck

    Jersey Exile,

    I think the main problem here is that “refugee” is almost always used these days to refer to people who have been displaced from their country of origin.

    The main problem here is that this is a non-problem. You may think words have magical powers, but it just ain’t so. The problems in the aftermath of Katrina are material, not linguistic.

  • Jeremy A. Verdusco
  • RightNumberOne


    Why don’t we just number them instead of calling them IDPs.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    Let’s just say welcome to them all. A church summer camp on a lake near here is setting up to take in as many as it can and I say Hallelujah.

  • Words have no powers?

    Magical or not, words have very strong powers, and the choice of words one uses can subtly and effectively frame the entire debate.

    I think the Bush administration made this an issue when they started blaming all the problems on those who were left behind. Painting them as “refugees” goes a long with in furthering that awful point and shifting the blame back to them.

  • Catherine

    I’m not sure it’s offensive, but it’s not the right use of the term. Refugees, as some other people have pointed out, are people seeking refuge often in a foreign land. These people aren’t that. They’re American citizens who have been failed by the government that’s supposed to protect them.

  • Jersey Exile


    Well, yeah — if “honky” is the only thing you’ve ever been called in your life, I’m sure it might be easy to draw the conclusion that words have no such power.

    People who have been called worse, however, might beg to differ…

  • chuck


    I never said the left didn’t believe in magic. Not to mention trivia. Its one of the reasons a good athiest like myself has become a refugee from the Democratic party.

  • Fred

    America, land of refugees or descendants of them.
    So where was this ambulance chasing cleric while this catastrophy and disaster happened?
    In Venezuela.
    Was he meeting with and comforting the oppressed political prisoners there in Hugo Chavez’s jails?
    No, he was kissing Chavez’s oppressing ass.

  • klarkin

    And so it goes….

  • chuck

    I rather like this comment I found:

    This is Paul Counts, from Intercosmos. My home is in New Orleans and I can’t live there anymore. I’m a refugee. Suck it Jesse.

  • TedM

    General Honore has arrived.

    The face and the voice which has been needed since Day 1. He is in charge. You can sense the command in his manner. He is calm, factual and brooks no nonsense. One of the clueless reporters at one of the cable stations just told him that there were dead bodies and what was he going to do. The General looked at him with his steely eyes and said “I can send my men to find the living or the dead” He then said nothing more and stared at the reporter. After 15 or 20 seconds of silence, he calmly said to the reporter, “Now what would you do?” More silence. And then the reporter moved on to the next question.


  • Scott Butki

    Refugee I can handle.
    But if this is true that some are calling them “insurgents” – well, that’s a new low.

  • Michael Savoy

    Why do you give Jackson any credence to be concerned with anything he says? Jackson emerges from the darkness whenever controversy and tragedy occur, appearing on the scene the way a vulture begins to circle a carcass, the way maggots spontaneously begin feeding on rotting flesh.Sponsor a pissing contest and Jackson will be there as long as the media promises to be there.

  • chuck


    Maybe they mean this:

    OMG. Report now on WWL of a cheaper hotel that still has victims stranded inside (the reporters waded through hip-deep water)–and 10 NOPD “officers” who looted and then commandeered the upper floors. On camera, one of the men brandished a pistol and admitted to being NOPD.

    These things are all just rumors right now. Someday there are going to be a lot of stories to tell, and not all of them are going to be pretty.

    BTW, I am picking this stuff up here. I suggest you all go pay a visit.

  • John

    If the term “insurgents” has been used, I think it’s probably referring to the type of people who shot at the contractors hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to work on draining an area near one of the levees. New Orleans police returned fire, reportedly killing five or six of the gunmen.

    If the report is accurate, I’m not sure what else you can call people who have been shooting at relief workers since Wednesday, making the rescue and repair efforts even more dangerous and time-consuming than they already are.

  • Leslie

    Subject: Quote from the Sister of a Friend…
    From: Darla Vladschyk
    Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2005 19:34:12 GMT
    Newsgroups: alt.religion.kibology

    ….who worked with the poorest of the poor in pre-disaster New
    Orleans. Submitted without editorial comment:

    “May I add that having lived 15 years in the low income, black Treme
    area of New Orleans for 15 years, that the armed looters you see on TV
    are people who never, ever had any power in pre-catastrophe New
    Orleans. They didn’t have the power to stand up to crooked landlords
    who charged them high rents to live in uninhabitable housing. When
    they tried to stand up they always lost. Always. I saw it every day
    I lived there.

    These are people who never thought they would live to age of 20. (I
    quote several kids I know) and who yet longed to “be somebody.” And
    now, for a period of about 48 hours, they were Somebody. They had
    guns. They knew they would never be rescued, who ever cared about
    them? No one at all. They have no trust that anyone would ever care,
    but for now, they have power for the first and the last time in their
    young lives, as Gov. Kathleen Blanco orders National Guard troops to
    shoot to kill. They knew it was going to end this way from the moment
    they were born. But for a few days, they were kings.”

  • Leslie

    Apologies for the bad word wrap.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    Thanks for all the help… there’s a big sign over the Dallas Reunion Arena now saying No Donations Accepted At This Time.

  • Eileen

    Where did you read, hear about or see that, Ruth?

  • The Lonewacko Blog

    If anyone can stop the alleged minor acts of “anarchy” in NO, it’s got to be Xeni Jardin, Ned Sublette, and Jesse Jackson. I propose inserting them into the thick of things, having them rappel from choppers if necessary. They will soon straighten things out.

    As for “refugees,” there is a legal definition in U.S. immigration law, and a summary is here: “Refugees and asylees are applicants for admission who claim to be fleeing their homeland due to persecution or the fear of persecution. Refugees apply from abroad and are subject to a numerical limit. Asylees apply from the within the U.S.”

    So, while “refugee” is not the legally correct term, I propose that we use it just as a way of telling Jesse where to stick it.

  • Ravo

    Leslie…that’s the worst liberal elitest BS I ever heard about
    moronic thugs, who made the whole town more dangerous and prevented rescues, caring not at all, hurting the poor the most.

    It takes a sick mind to wax poetic garbage like this.

  • DB

    Jesse Jackson continues to ride the wave of sensationalism. I am shocked that he does not continue to wear his shirt that was soaked in a true leader’s blood. Our communities see through the insincerity of his leadership and hypocrasy.

  • Those bastards!

    I got an idea — let’s call them American citizens in need.

    Jesse Jackson may be a pinhead, but he has a point.

  • Larry Grant

    ajf: Kill….piece of shit??? You must be Pat Robertson’s illegitimate child!!!! Asshole…..

  • Nahanni


    Pat Robertson has sent more aid to the evacuees then Jessie and Al have and he didn’t go grandstanding down to Louisiana to do it, either. Perhaps Jessie and Al can come back when they get the water out of NOLA, they will need alot of hot air to dry the place out.

    The only black people in Louisiana who like Jessie and Al are the elites. The average working folks see them for what they are-con men who make a very good living off of tossing around The Race Card(TM).

  • Gray

    To me, Jackson’s problem with ‘refugees’ sounds like another overproduced piece of PC.
    Let’s rely on Merriam-Webster instead:
    refugee – one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

    Sounds like a quite good description of some NO citizen, who had to flee from the impact of Katrina and the flood and who is now in another state. What’s wrong with that? National pride doesn’t concede that there are refugees in the US?

  • Dimitar Vesselinov

    America, are you up to the challenge? The world is watching you.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    Eileen, there was a picture of the sign over Reunion Arena on a news report I was watching. Sorry I didn’t answer you before, but went to bed after the news.

    By the way, a lot of schools are taking in students from the evacuation without the usual requirement of records. See:

  • Andrea Harris

    “the armed looters you see on TV
    are people who never, ever had any power in pre-catastrophe New
    Orleans. They didn’t have the power to stand up to crooked landlords
    who charged them high rents to live in uninhabitable housing. When
    they tried to stand up they always lost. Always. I saw it every day
    I lived there.”

    Oh, well, then that’s okay. Carry on shooting!

  • Ravo

    An entire superdome was denied rescue so shooters and looters could feel like “somebody” and play King for a Day(s).

    The author that wrote that claptrap obviously was never trapped in that Superdome. Too bad.

  • Jon Donley

    I’m getting a lot of complaining from PC whiners who don’t want me to use the word “refugee.” The gist of the letters is that they are from people who want to exploit us for political reasons. Frankly after 30 years as an editor, I don’t need style lessons. And if you’re going to exploit our pain, you’d better do it from long distance, because we’re a little touchy.

    Get out of my face. We can call ourselves what we want.

  • Jon Donley

    PS — We’re now working out of Baton Rouge. Yesterday, a group of New Orleans REFUGEES were gathered around the liquor area of Albertsons . . . a liquor area that was surrounded by a steel cage. It was Sunday, you see, and in Baton Rouge, you may not buy alcohol on Sunday. The crowd despondently pawed at the bars, whimpering for sustenance.

    The horror . . . the horror . . .

    We are indeed strangers in a strange land.

  • Eileen

    Hold tight and stay strong, Jon. You’re no more touchy than you need to be. I’ll go to your place, soon. You’re a superlative writer by any other name.

    Maria, thanks for your wisdom and appreciation. I appreciate you and your discernment, too.

    Ruth, thanks also. I’m guessing it was an effort to reduce congestion.

    And to All at Camp Buzz, here’s a little love for a change. We could all use some about now, eh?

  • Eileen


    Sorry, mixing threads… I know you’ll find the message anyway.

  • Helen Lerion

    We were sad at katrina hurricane, as i saw, the news and events dead and refugees struggles to survive, I wonder, if someone there, calling the name of God. Everybodys favorite prayers ……..happened, during disaster moment. I sent my prayers to everyone whos despair, be lift up, and hopefully the courage to stand at the moment of despair.

  • Bruno

    What else is new. Every time Jesse Jackasson opens his mouth something really stupid comes out. But he gets the media coverage and attention he strives on. When he complained about the Mexican (Memin Pinguin) stamps, that only prompted me to buy enough for myself, family, and friends. Now he wants to tell us what to call the refugees? Go ahead America, keep on kissing his ass.

    Some really believe he was instrumental in securing the release of POWs. What a joke. Leaders of nations that are hostile toward us WANT him to look good. They would love nothing more than to have him in power, especially as president.

    Evacuees, displaced persons, refugees, all the above are correct. But since Jesse complained, it’s REFUGEES for me.

  • Stevo

    I’m not ashamed to be called a refugee. Evacuee and displaced person are other suitable names. The definition of “refugee” does fit the situation. I fled from Texas to a foreign state — Texas. I fled from danger — first a hurricane, then the flooding due to man’s folly and improvidence. I, like many others, am now at a crossroads. I may spiral into an abyss of despair and worry, or I may go forward toward a brighter future of my own making. I will note that the charity of individuals and private organizations far outpaces that of the federal government in both scope and management. God bless Texas and its good people.