Why are U.S. hurricanes given names? Names are actually given to tropical storms but if they reach a sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour, then they are deemed hurricanes. These types of destructive storms are given monikers because naming them makes it much easier for meteorologists, researchers, emergency response workers, ship captains, and citizens to communicate about specific hurricanes in a clear manner. So after decades of hurricane and storm names, did a Black Congresswoman demand that African-American names be included?
The practice of giving storms female names actually began in 1953, and in 1979, the names alternated between men and women. During the same year, the World Meteorological Organization‘s (WMO) Regional Association IV Hurricane Committee began using French or Spanish names for storms.
In July 2003, Sheila Jackson Lee (pictured), a Democratic member of Congress who represents the 18th District of Texas and a staunch supporter and member of the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, and a civil rights crusader, began criticizing the meteorological community for their blatant exclusion of African-Americans names for storms and hurricanes.
Jackson Lee felt all ethnic groups should be represented when referring to storm’s names and the racist practice of giving “lily-white” names to these storms should come to an end.
What types of names did Jackson Lee want included for storms and hurricanes?
Names, such as Keisha, Jamal, and Deshawn.
At the time, Jackson Lee’s campaign for giving Black names to storms/hurricanes caused incendiary criticism, with some feeling the new name demands would stereotypically label Blacks as violent. Even political blowhard Rush Limbaugh chimed in as a Jackson Lee critic, stating on his radio talk show that the mainstream populace was not responsible for what he called the “Balkanization” of race relations in America:
“It is these elected Black leaders, the civil-rights coalitions – they’re the ones that keep causing all this racial divide; they’re the ones that keep calling attention to all this.” said Limbaugh. “They’re the ones that keep stirring this pot. They’re the ones who don’t want there to be any colorblind society. They’re the ones who keep being agitated and trying to agitate others over all this, and now it’s descended into the meaningless element of the names of hurricanes!”
Thus far, Jackson Lee, whom many have criticized as someone whose only life skill is to cry “racism,” has not been successful in her quest; it’s been about 10 years and neither Keisha, Jamal or Deshawn has blown through any parts of these United States.