Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: A Congresswoman called for hurricanes to be given African-American names.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: This racist take on a Congresswoman's actual comments began circulating on the Internet in September 2005, possibly as a reaction in kind to widespread negative characterizations of African-Americans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The practice of bestowing given names upon hurricanes began in 1953 when the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) started naming tropical storms after women. That organization
In July 2003, Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee (a member of the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, and an ardent supporter of the current civil-rights leadership) criticized the weather establishment for its selection of names with which to christen hurricanes, stating that "All racial groups should be represented." Her comment was prompted by the 2003 list of hurricane names, which for the first time included French and Spanish appellations (derived from languages spoken in areas that border the Atlantic Ocean, where such storms occur), and she expressed the hope that in the future such lists "would try to be inclusive of African American names" as well.
The National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center publishes the yearly list of names to be used for identifying storms. The lists compiled for use through 2010 do not appear to include any distinctly African-American monikers.
The racist nature of the message quoted above has cost the job of at least one person who passed it along via
In August 2007, the Mayor of Oak Ridge North, Texas, was moved to ask for the resignation of one of its councilpersons who had forwarded the
Barbara "thar she blows!" Mikkelson
Last updated: 28 August 2007
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