Rabb_1 And now for a rare perspective on the racial divide exposed by Hurricane Katrina's wake... that of a black blogger.

Christopher M. Rabb's antennae twitch every time he hears the word refugees used to describe those dislocated by Katrina.

"Hurricane Katrina victims are Americans!" writes the Philadelphian on his Afro-Netizen site, one of the disproportionately few places of color in the blogosphere. "If Mississippians fled to Jamaica, then they would be refugees. I don't recall the media referring to Hurricane Andrew victims in '92 as refugees. Do you?"

A post added Wednesday night deconstructs the term you people. Meanwhile, the National Association of Black Journalists is cautioning against the use of refugee. The Chicago Tribune's Don Wycliff can't see why.

Rabb writes Afro-Netizen from his Mount Airy home; he's lived here a little more than three years, happily trailing his wife to Philadelphia after she got a job teaching law at Rutgers and Penn. Newspaper blood flows through the 35-year-old Yale graduate - his family publishes the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper - but his own roots are in entrepreneurism and political activism. He worked on The Hill as a legislative aide to former Ill. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

It was his connections to Democratic party officials that launched him to prominence last year. A friend told him the party was credentialing bloggers for the national convention in Boston. As he told it to an audience at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York in May, he made this pitch:

"It would be really messed if you had all these bloggers and didn't have a single black blogger." 

In Boston, he wound up pointing out speeches ignored by the mainstream media, and wrote in a style that caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times. Its reporter quoted this Rabbism: "As Ohio is a bellwether for the nation, if Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) delivers in her congressional district and beyond, she would most certainly deserve 'honorary white boy' status and all the perks that come with it."

Although relatively new to blogging, Rabb has been writing on the Web since the mid '90s. He began grabbing articles that interested him and emailing them around, developing a list of family, friends and college pals that has since swelled to 10,000 people.

His gives this personal history on his site. A life-long student of Black history, politics, and genealogy, I often found myself reading and forwarding compelling articles and other information related to Blackfolk within my personal sphere of influence. In essence, I had become a "news aggregator" before this buzzword became en vogue amongst the digerati. Moreover, I sought to leverage the Internet for expressly civic matters as well, and it was in recognition of this latter distinction that begged the question: Knowing how few Blackfolk (in the U.S. and abroad) had regular, if not frequent access to the Internet at home and/or at work, what does one call this small subset of Blackfolk who represented intellectually-curious, computer-literate and civic-minded Internet users?

The answer: Afro-netizens.

Rabb says in an interview that he is actually encouraged by the public's reaction to the government response to Hurricane Katrina

"For the first time we are hearing from a lot of white people who otherwise wouldn't talk about race. 'Wait, why this treatment and neglect? It has to be race.' This is a catalyst for racial awakening among people who often don't have to think about race. It can be used for good and evil and probably somewhere in between.

"I've been pleasantly pleased how many people across the political spectrum are seeing what a lot of black and brown people and progressive people have seen from time immemorial, that this is a racist society and it impacts on everything we do."


The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, reports "a huge racial divide" in views of the disaster and lessons it tells.

For example, 71% of blacks say the disaster shows that racial inequality remains a major problem in the country; a majority of whites (56%) feel this was not a particularly important lesson of the disaster. And while 66% of blacks think that the government’s response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the storm’s victims had been white, an even larger percentage of whites (77%) disagree.

Citizen Mom
Posted 09/08/2005 09:01:41 AM

This reminds me of the speech Bush gave during the hurricane debacle last week, where he talked about how "people in that part of the world" are suffering, and how we were going to get help "to those people in that part of the world." Ummm, how about "those Americans in that part of our COUNTRY," you smack. Utter disconnect.

Posted 09/08/2005 10:24:23 AM

I think the term "refugee" is cool. When I think of that word, I think of the musical group "The Fugees". Then of course, I think of Lauren Hill and Wyclef Jean. I wouldn't mind being associated with them in any way. Of course, my house is not under water right now, and I'm not fleeing for my life. But if I was, I wouldn't even care what people were calling me, as long as I was alive. Now for the part of the comment that isn't from my behind. Refugee is a perfectly valid term. All it means is "an exile who flees for safety". Under this definition, if my house caught on fire, I would be a refugee or I'd be dead. There are other definitions. Politics in the dictionary are always fun to wade through. By this definition, it's not an equivalent to the situation. "Someone who has left his or her homeland because of fear of persecution." Clearly, that's not what's happening. Words are fun.

Posted 09/08/2005 11:45:57 AM

I just read his last post, and so far, he's 0 for 2 on his "stereotypes", for me anyway. #1, I'm in the middle and I'm not conservative. Being in the middle means you are neither conservative nor liberal. That's why there's a middle. #2, when I think of the word refugee, besides my joke above about the Fugees, I don't think it implies "black people". Never have, never will. There are refugees in other parts of the world that are not black. A shocker, some people don't think in terms of race all the time, or ever.

Posted 09/08/2005 12:00:51 PM

How did this become racial? ref·u·gee: "One who flees in search of refuge"

Posted 09/09/2005 08:22:25 AM

Of course, the irony here is that this idiot talks about a racist society and racial divisions and doesn't realize that he's part of the problem, not part of the solution.

One perspective....
Posted 09/09/2006 01:32:13 PM

After Katrina struck, many people became 'refugees' because of the fact they were force to evacuate their homes and take 'refuge' somewhere else. In that light, the term makes sense. the people that were labelled as refugees weren't done so because some were Black. if every single person was White they would still be called refugees. Im sure that if there were more Black government representatives (which there should be for equality!)the '66% of Black people who said that the government would have responded faster if the people were all White' would have answered differently as they felt represented.I don't think anything that comes from Bush's mouth should be trusted or respected. As a British person i sincerely regret my country's involvement with him.

One perspective...
Posted 09/09/2006 01:37:20 PM

please let me know what you think about my above statement, im always interested to hear other ppls views xx

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