So I'm reading the paper yesterday, after having prepared my box of school supplies for the Katrina refugees now living in Belton, MO, and I find out these supplies aren't for refugees at all! Imagine my surprise! Apparently, a refugee is not "a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster" (italics mine) as my handiest dictionary says. That word apparently only refers to foreigners forced to leave their home to escape natural disasters. "These are not refugees. These are Americans," President Bush says. Wha---?
Our dear president is not known for his universal command of the English language. Neither is The Reverend Al Sharpton. And I wish I could find the reference I read yesterday when some linguistic luminaries suggested they should be called "Katrina escapees." But now the media have jumped on the bandwagon.
Oy Vey, Maria! Do these people have nothing better to do than cry racism?
According to the LA Times, the "displaced persons" themselves would prefer to be called "evacuees." That's fine. I'll call them the "Kings of Mardi Gras" if they want me to, out of respect for their suffering. But, the word does not mean, or even connote as far as I know, a group of people coming to this country from a Third World nation seeking asylum. They're Americans seeking refuge from a natural disaster. And that, folks, makes them refugees.