Monday, September 05, 2005

American Refugees? No... Citizens of the United States of America

I went to Church this morning, as I usually do on any given Sunday...

I noticed that we had more visitors than usual. I thought to myself, "Hmm... must be some family reunions in town."

No these were not relatives in town for a family reunion...

These were people who escaped and/or survived the Hurricane Katrina Disaster.

My pastor asked them to come up to the front of the Church. They filed out of their seats and slowly went up to the front.

There had to be at least two hundred of them.

Black. White. Asian.

People that look like they could be my next door neighbor. People that look like the people I work with. People that look like people I ride the train with on my commutes to and from work.

"That's a lot of people," I said to my sister Kay.

Then I realized that this was only a mere fraction of those affected by the terrible disaster. A fraction of a fraction, really.

Then my pastor said something that astounded me, and made me proud...

"We will no longer refer to these people as American Refugees. These are citizens of The United States of America."

He prayed for the people, afterwhich we, the congregation, were allowed to go up front, give them money, hugs, and words of encouragement...

I realized then how much this new term "American Refugee" has disturbed me all week. Such an unusual term, it is. American Refugee? In the richest, most prosperous country in the world? What an oxymoron.

I'd never heard this term before. I remember as a child hearing the term "Vietnamese Refugee". I even went to graduate school with a guy who was a Vietnamese Refugee as a child. (Oh, the crazy stories he told of life on the run!). I vaguely remember the term Cambodian refugee, and all the pictures of the chaos going on in that country.

But American refugee?

Those two words shouldn't be put together in the same sentence.

These are people that look like you and me. They pay taxes just like you and me. They vote just like you and me.

They live in this country... just like you and me.

A man from Mississippi who had lost everything to the Hurricane Katrina disaster sat behind me at Church. I had a chance to talk to him for a moment.

I never saw such pain in a person's eyes. I almost broke down in tears just talking to him.

I had taken money out of the bank on Saturday. I'd been trying to budget, since I'm about to close on my new home in the next couple of weeks. I have developed the habit of getting a set amount of money out of the ATM for the next week, and making myself live off of it.

I gave it all to this man. I figured he and his family, these citizens of the United States of America, needed it more than I did.

I looked at the news this afternoon. Looks like the media has stopped using this term "American Refugees". They are now using the term "Hurricane Evacuees."

This sounds a little better to me. More appropriate. More humane, at least.

But I would feel better if they called these people what they really are...

Citizens of these United States of America.


  1. i love sharing your experience through reading your words. i wish you many blessings for your generosity and sincerity and much happiness in your new home. exquisite post...

  2. Ladylee, I agree. Like I said on Marcus blog, I believe Bush's lateness was out of insensitivity and not race, THAT PART. But this part with " refugees "? Oh I know that's just because these people are black. Condoleeza can say race doesn't play into this all she wants but she either thinks America is stupid because we all know that she knows that if these were white people they wouldn't have dared said " refugees ". They would have strictly said " Americans ". Period. Lovely post! I'll visit your blog often!

  3. Diana Chistine...

    Glad you liked it and thanks a alot.
    Stop by again!


    I agree with you girl... But like I said on Marcus' blog. They're going to spin this just right. (Remember, JEB BUSH '08).
    And thanks for stopping by!


  4. Another great post, Ladylee. That very thinly-veiled demon called Racism continues to rear its ugly head, and we just keep catching glimpses of it whenever the opportunity presents itself.

    I applaud your generosity to the hurricane survivor, as well as the sincerity behind it. You will truly be blessed for it.

  5. Anonymous10:01:00 PM

    Nice post. So you know, Oriental is a term used to describe furniture and rugs. The people are Asian.

  6. Mr.(or Ms.) Anonymous...
    Sorry about that. I'll change that. Didn't mean to offend you.


  7. Oldgirl #210:57:00 PM

    The first time I heard the media referring to the hurricane victims as refugees, it really bothered me. I didn't like it. It wasn't until the black senator (I did not get his name) finally came on CNN and voiced his disgust of the word, that I realized I was not alone.
    Being from BR, I have a lot of emotion running through me about the events that have unfolded. Even though the media portrayal of the Superdome and Convention Center were probably accuarate, I also got upset when they showed a tiny baby dying of dehydration and they didn't even offer a drink of water. I feel like they really fueled the fire to this situation and they could have done a better job, too.

    I do believe the government failed the people on all levels, and I was not happy that no one in Louisiana stepped up as the leader as Rudy G did in NY during 9/11. Mayor Nagin may have pointed fingers at the Federal government, but he was responsible for the plan before the hurricane hit, where was it?

    Also, I believe that even though the bulk of the people left in NO were black, a lot of white people were victims as well, they just had the means to get out, but what bothers me about all this is that in the last election, LA was a red state. Yup! they voted for Bush. Kerry bumper stickers were a dime a dozen around here, but almost every car had a Bush/Cheney sticker or a W sticker on it. What I don't understand is how people can vote for the conservative ideal of cutting taxes and cutting government, but expect the funds and the feds to be there in a moments notice, when calamity strikes?

    I may be wrong, but I think that relocating people to new parts of the country that aren't so entrenched in a history of racist attitudes and divisions may actually be a blessing in disguise. It might give folks who have spent their whole lives thinking "this is it" some inspiration to succeed despite where they come from because I know that a lot of black people here don't see a way out, so they don't even try. This is my hope.

    Take care Ladylee

  8. Oldgirl#2...

    What's up oldgirl? You know, I've been trying to call you EVERY single day for the past week. I can't get through. Glad to know you are alright. Is the phone service almost back to normal in Baton Rouge? Hit me on my cell phone (I'll email the # to you.)

    You know oldgirl, they have all of a sudden started calling these people "hurricane evacuees". Maybe that senator you're talking about was the main cause for that...

    Yeah, the media may have added fuel to the fire. I saw a lot of images that deeply disturbed me. But Oldgirl, don't you know that if the media was not there exposing what's going on (or if they were being overly politically correct about it), those people would have probably STILL been stuck off in the Superdome or on those bridges AT THIS VERY MOMENT? I'm sure they would have...

    And it's true, LA was a red state. Didn't surprise me. But I feel like we are taxpayers. The US government would have had the funds if the USA wasn't running all around all these years playing savior of the world, getting every other country out of their mess. Don't get me wrong. I'm not down for an isolationist agenda, but we should have a multi-billion dollar fund available just in case some craziness goes down in our own country... Bad management, that's what I call it. I work for government...I know what bad management is...

    The displacement may be helpful to some folks. But Oldgirl, a lot of this displacement and loss of everything in life is going to affect people for years. At the same time, I am very surprised to see how many people are saying that they are not moving back after the situation is straightened out. And, is New Orleans going to be rebuilt?

    Oldgirl, I was there for 2.5 years, and you see how fast I hauled ass out of there. I had never experienced such racism in my entire life. You remembered where I worked? I swear, if there wasn't a law against lynching blacks, I, and the few other black Ph.D.'s working on that job, would be swinging from a tree right now. It was terrible for me down there. Between that and all the flooding and hellacious fog freaking me out... I knew I could not stay.

    Glad to know you are safe, buddy. And thanks for visiting my blog,girl. I'll be in touch!


  9. I hope it was not your intention to say that it is okay for hurricanes and natural disasters to happen to people in Third World countries just because they don't "look like you and me... pay taxes just like you and just like you and me".

    This shouldn't happen to anyone regardless of what they look like or whether they have voting rights.

    This is what the rest of the world thinks:

  10. Hannah,

    Not my intention at all to say that, and I have no idea how you got that out of my comments. Disaster is disaster. Something that you can't control. No one on the entire planet in ANY country should go have to go through anything like this, whether they have voting rights or not, etc.

    I've seen a couple of posts by people living in other countries that can't believe that American citizens went through such a thing. Poverty and Classism in America? That Americans were left out in the cold like this. Made me sad.

    And right now, I am happy to see that over 60 countries, whether ally or enemy, are offering aid to the USA. (I wasn't expecting that.) I hope we take it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and thanks for the link.


  11. Dang, 200 people? I want to know what church you attend. :) It must be a large church. Could you write me off-loop and tell me? (I am nosy).


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