Thursday, September 2, 2010

Are hurricane names too "lily white"?

At lunch today I went out to my car and read the Pigskin Preview, a local free publication about high school football, while listening to the radio. I had on Rolla's news station and was halfway listening to the Rush Limbaugh program. Rush was gone and in his place was some British guy who was talking about some silly congresswoman's complaint that hurricane names aren't "black" enough. This silliness piqued my interest, so I quit reading and started listening. According to the guy on the radio, the black congresswoman said the agency in charge of naming hurricanes is racist because it doesn't give hurricanes that sound black or African enough. I've heard the charge of racism so much that it just makes me laugh rather than get upset. I thought this one was particularly funny, so I looked it up on the internet when I got home from work.

Turns out to be true, and it isn't new. This happened back in August 2003, according to this story on the World Net Daily website.

The congressional newspaper the Hill reported this week that Rep. Sheila
Jackson Lee, D-Texas, feels that the current names are too "lily white,"
and is seeking to have better representation for names reflecting
African-Americans and other ethnic groups ....
"All racial groups should be represented," Lee said, according to the Hill.
She hoped federal weather officials "would try to be inclusive of
African-American names."
A sampling of popular names that could be used
include Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn, according to the paper.

I work with three young black guys. They are Paul, Kris and Montez. The only black girl at work whose name I know is Tracy. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee insults their parents by insinuating their names are not African-American enough. Paul is a Latin name, shortened version of Paulus. Famous Pauls include Paul the apostle, Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Paul Newman and Paul Simon. Kris is a Scandanavian name and the only Kris I can think of right off the bat is Kris Kringle. Montez is a Spanish name, and I don't know anybody but my co-worker who has that name. Tracy is an Irish name; there's a tennis player named Tracy Austin and an actress who spells it with an e, Tracey Ullman.

If Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is looking for names of hard-working black people to attach to destructive hurricanes, then the names Paul, Kris, Montez and Tracy would work. I don't know that the Paul, Kris, Montez and Tracy who are my co-workers would feel particularly honored by such an action, though.

The whole idea seems nonsensical. Why don't we just name the next particularly erratic and destructive hurricane Sheila Jackson Lee and forget about the whole silly suggestion?

No comments: