A few days ago, as an enormous wall of dust approached Lubbock, Texas, the local U.S. National Weather Service posted the following brief weather report to Facebook,
“A Haboob [sic] is rapidly approaching the Lubbock airport and may affect the city as well.”
While the NWS was trying to be helpful and informative, the ugly head of American xenophobia emerged in the Facebook comments. It seems the use of the term “haboob,” which has Arabic roots, angered many locals as evidenced by the backlash of racist Facebook comments.
Some Facebook users were quick to associate the meteorological term with the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan in a negative, abusive way.
Brenda Daffern, a Facebook user, wrote in a comment that has been deleted,
"In Texas, nimrod, this is called a sandstorm. We've had them for years! If you would like to move to the Middle East you can call this a haboob. While you reside here, call it a sandstorm. We Texans will appreciate you.”
Another Facebook user, John Fullbright, threatened to boycott NWS for using a non-English word in their now-deleted post:
"Haboob!?! I'm a Texan. Not a foreigner from Iraq or Afghanistan. They might have haboobs but around here in the Panhandle of TEXAS, we have Dust Storms. So would you mind stating it that way. I'll find another weather service."
Other negative Facebook posts remain on the site, such as the following:
As per new Facebook rules, some of the hate speech was quickly removed, but there are still plenty of annoyed Texans to make fun of the annoying Texans.
According to Sputnik News, NWS backed up their use of “haboob” in a statement, with meteorologist Jody James who explained,
"The differentiation between a haboob and just those days when we get blowing dust everywhere and the whole sky turns brown has to do with more of that wall of dust coming in.”
So it seems, as usual, all the fuss in the Facebook comments was much haboob about nothing.
Photo Credit: Facebook, US National Weather Service Lubbock Texas