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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee “Black Hurricanes Matter” Claims-Truth!

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee “Black Hurricanes Matter” Claims-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:
U.S. Rep. Sheilia Jackson, a Democrat from Texas, once argued that the National Weather Service uses hurricane names that are “lily white” and should try to be more racially inclusive with its name selection.
The Truth:
Reports that Sheila Jackson Lee took issue with the “lily white” names given to hurricanes in 2003 appear to be true — but she never said “Black Hurricanes Matter.”
The old rumor resurfaced as Hurricane Matthew bore down on Florida and parts of the East Coast, prompting widespread evacuations, in early October 2016. Jackson’s comment about the “whiteness” of hurricane names from 2003 was drudged up in a report by CNBC about how hurricanes get their names:

Naming conventions are also a source of controversy. A black congresswoman from Texas complained in 2003 that hurricanes were only given white names. “All racial groups should be represented,” she said,

CNBC attributed the quote to Wired, which attributed the quote to WND, which attributed the quote to a printed version of The Hill from August 2003. The column doesn’t exist in the Hill’s online archives, but we found an archived version of the original column here:

Hurricane Latonya? Hurricane names raise a warning The 2003 hurricane season is here, and that means a whole new list of names such as Larry, Sam and Wanda ready to make tropical-storm history.

Although Spanish and French names are included in this year’s lineup, among them Juan and Claudette, which struck Texas last week, popular African American names, like Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn, are nowhere to be found.

Some black lawmakers don’t seem to mind, but Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) does. “All racial groups should be represented,” said Lee.

The World Meteorological Organization After feminist groups protested, men’s names were added in 1979.

The National Weather Service says Atlantic Ocean, where such storms occur. Yet that doesn’t explain why Gaston, Ernesto and Cindy were chosen and Antwon, Destiny and Latonya were passed over.

Lee said she hoped in the future the weather establishment “would try to be inclusive of African American names.”

That could take a while. The current roster of hurricane names isn’t due to be updated until 2007.

Critics of Jackson have often used the column to ridicule her for allegedly inserting race into a subject where it doesn’t seem to belong. That was reflected in 2016 when the tongue-and-cheek phrase, “Black Hurricanes Matter,” went viral — even though Jackson never uttered that phrase on the record.
As it turns out, however, this isn’t the first time hurricane naming has been linked to social issues. In the late 1970s, male names were added to the list of hurricanes in response to mounting pressure from feminist groups who took issue with the policy of using all female names, the New York Times reports:

Female-only hurricane naming persisted until a growing number of women breaking into meteorology in the mid-1970’s shed light on the inherently sexist practice. Not only were hurricanes referred to as “she” by the media, they were also described using clichés of supposedly feminine behaviors, sometimes “teasing,” or “flirting,” with coastlines. But the push to use male names was met with outrage cloaked in the fear that male names wouldn’t inspire enough caution….

And some people weren’t happy when male names were brought into the fold, either. A Houston Post columnist wrote in 1978 that he was “insulted and offended” that Hurrican had been named “Bob” instead of “Barbara,” continuing:

Whoever insisted that a proportionate number of tropical storms must now sprout whiskers certainly couldn’t be from around here … The storm, for better or worse, is a lady. Bob, the first manchild of the National Hurricane Center, marks the first time ever that seafarers must wait to receive a gentleman caller.

In the end, rumors that Jackson said that black names needed to be added to hurricane names are true, but it wasn’t the first time hurricane naming was brought into social issues.