Jesse Jackson: ‘Refugees’ Connotes Racism

From Yahoo News:

What do you call people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their backs, unsure if they will ever be able to return, and forced to build a new life in a strange place?

I’d call them refugees. Jesse Jackson says:

It is racist to call American citizens refugees.

President Bush says:

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.

What’s that expression… ‘as Rome burns’? 

I like the shadow reading that implies that Americans can’t be refugees because those are those people over there in those countries that do those things and believe in those gods and don’t look like us.

Besides you can’t use the term ‘royally fucked’ on network television.

Metafilter inspired my other favorite: nouveau homeless. 

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2 thoughts on “Jesse Jackson: ‘Refugees’ Connotes Racism

  1. Marianne

    What do you call people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their backs, unsure if they will ever be able to return, and forced to build a new life in a strange place?

    Formerly marginalized, now over the edge? Or totally disenfranchised..I don’t think un-enfranchised is really a word. Royally fucked is probably the most accurate for right now….totally fucked could be next since Jesse Jackson and W agree that they are not refugees and Barbara Bush thinks that the Astro Dome is high cotton.

  2. Charlotte

    In my understanding refugees are people, of any nationality, who are running away from a life-threatening situation, be it a hurricane, war, or political repression. Some refugees have had to leave their country, some their hometown. Refugees are not a certain kind of people; they are just human beings who are running for their lives, and this could happen to you, me, or anybody else on the planet. I live in a European country where the only people who use the word ‘refugee’ as an invective are the (more or less racist, but definitely xenophobic) ones who think that everybody else should just stay put and die instead of bothering the people in the rich countries with their misery. If someone says, ‘These people are not refugees, they are Americans’, it sounds like a chauvinistic and xenophobic comment to me.

    This entire disaster – not just the refugees-or-not issue – reminds me of
    how the ‘Okies’ were treated in John Steinbeck’s marvellous novel The Grapes of Wrath, where hard-working farmers had to flee their native Oklahoma after a natural disaster coupled with economic depression and political incompetence. They had lost everything, and they were poor, and some of them died, and they were treated like dirt by some people who just couldn’t understand the refugee experience and thought that ‘Okies’ were some other, lower, species.

    What I’m trying to say is that there is only one kind of human beings on this planet, and the word ‘refugee’ refers to a situation, not a special breed or race or nationality or what ever label we use to put each other down.

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