Wednesday, September 07, 2005

refugee pride

As a member of a group that has spent years struggling with what to call itself (ranging from the re-appropriated “queer” to the catchy “L/G/B/T/Q/I”), I feel the need to weigh in on the whole “don’t call us refugees” debate. While a refugee is technically someone who flees his or her country in search of political asylum, the connotative implication seems to be that refugees are poor, dirty, third-world types, and we are not like them.

Ahem. I’m pretty sure that refugees from Afghanistan and Rwanda don’t want to be poor and dirty and displaced either. But rather than consider the uncomfortable notion that those-refugees-over-there are intelligent, feeling people who are seeking refuge from a sucky situation, it’s easier to distance ourselves from them. Americans cannot be refugees because that might mean that refugees are human.

So I’m putting a call out from some refugee pride. I would love to see poor-and-proud folks from Louisiana and Mississippi rise up, demand what they deserve and, while they’re at it, mention that there are a lot of people around the world who are also living in tents for reasons other than their love of camping. There could even be a parade. It seems like New Orleans should know how to put on a good one, but just in case, check out Eli Sanders’ wise advise for a righteous pride parade in The Stranger: Don’t let viewers ignore history or poverty, and skip the Absolut Vodka float.

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