Now that Ebola has officially infected two people in the United States let’s watch the widespread panic ensue! While I have no medical training and absolutely no authority to speak of the disease in terms of how concerned you should be, there is a separate side to all mass epidemics that is not founded in fact, intelligence, or common sense, that I feel comfortable speaking to, the racist/discriminatory side effects.
This morning, while listening to the radio on my commute to work, they were discussing the second healthcare worker to be diagnosed with Ebola and the extreme measures some people are going to, to protect themselves. During this discussion KSYN radio host, Big Al brought up whether or not you should be scared if you have a Liberian taxi driver.
Wait… what? Let’s stop right there and examine that statement before we even go into his rationale for making it. First, stereotyping that your only contact with people of West African descent will be in taxis because everyone knows that only Africans and Indians drive taxis! Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that African will pass as close enough to Liberian for most people.
He continued further to say, should we be concerned if he’s had other passengers that were also from West Africa and could possibly be infected. Once again, throwing down the casual racism by assuming that other Liberian nationals would only choose to ride in a taxi driven by a fellow Liberian. I’m sure there’s some kind of App for that similar to BackPeopleMeet.com but called AfricansMeetInTaxis.com
While I can vaguely/sort of/not really see where he was coming from with this logic it’s entirely based on stereotypes and backwards logic. If you regularly use taxis then, yes, you do have more reason to be concerned because your driver (regardless of his nationality) does come into relatively close contact with various people coming from a variety of places. But please don’t assume that because he is African or seems to appear African that he is Liberian and, therefore, infectious.
This is just one instance of what I’m sure will become an epidemic in itself. Another example being a relative of mine being afraid to post pictures of visitors from Eastern Africa being hosted by her church because people may think they brought Ebola with them. Despite the incredibly large geographic distance between them and countries experiencing infections.
Every disease and epidemic have its victims both in physical death tolls and in societal toll and the Ebola outbreak will be no different. So feel free to wear masks and rubber gloves every time you go out in public and use hand sanitizer till you pass out from the fumes, but please hold the racism and don’t fuel the panic because the internet will do plenty of that for you!
If you are uninformed or would like to be more informed about general information concerning the disease I strongly recommend checking out this handy fact sheet!