Just caught the end of tonight’s NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams, conlcuding the show, says that a number of people have objected to NBC’s use of the term “refugees” to refer to those people who have been displaced from their homes as a result of the destruction caused by Hurrican Katrina (and the way the situation was bungled and made worse by the Bush administration).
I was hoping, for just a split second, that Williams would say something like, “Well, you can stick your objection in your left ear,” or some such recognition that people are retarded and have too much to think about now than to complain about the use of the term.
But no, NBC actually took them seriously. Brian Williams actually said, “so we will begin to call them ‘evacuees’ or ‘survivors.'”
Now, “refugee” means “One who flees in search of refuge.” I understand that nowadays it has a political connotation. But what is so bad about calling these people what they are? Are people objecting that, heaven forbid, Americans are called refugees? Because like it or not, it’s true. Americans have been forced from their homes, fleeing a natural disaster. Perhaps these people are objecting because they don’t want Americans called a term we use for Palestinians and other third world minorities. “We can’t be refugees, we’re Americans.”
Whatever the motivation for it, xenophobic, racist or just plain stupid, it’s stupid. Now, NBC is being PC, and using a term that is mostly accurate, but doesn’t quite convey the true gravity of the situation. We should be using a term that calls to mind abject poverty and squalor. The living situation of the refugees from Katrina is no better, possibly worse, than those in Gaza. Why use a different word?