Bill Shipp: A refugee is a person seeking refuge.
The right word: A refugee is a person seeking refuge. That person may be female or male, white or nonwhite, old, young or middle-age. Refugee is not a racist or racial word. It is a word of desperation.
In the midst of last week's Katrina-created chaos, Jesse Jackson, self-anointed black leader, decided to lecture victims and their caregivers on English usage. "It is racist to call American citizens refugees," Jackson asserted.
Not wanting to be excluded from the latest politically correct trend, several writers and professors chimed in. They said Jackson was right. Refugee was a bad word.
Of the major-league arbiters of English, only New York Times language columnist William Safire dared go against the flow. He said "refugee" carried no racial connotation.
While hundreds of corpses floated in the floodwaters of New Orleans and thousands of, yes, refugees streamed out of the city probably never to return, Jesse Jackson spoke on semantics.
Jackson seems never to have heard of World War II, and the millions of displaced persons - DPs, they were called at the time - left homeless and hungry in Europe first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets.
Too bad he had never heard how the United States welcomed many of those refugees to its shores and gave them a better life - under the aegis of the Eisenhower Refugee Relief Act. Today, we know scores of Americans who are "refugee" survivors and proud of it.