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Rich King Law Commentary

Thoughts on ebola and the politics of race

Richard A King MJOTA 2014 v9n2 p1106

Recently, I read Dr Susanna Dodgson’s excellent report on the ebola-inspired hate crimes being carried out against West African immigrants in New York and Philadelphia. She described the attack on a couple of recently-arrived Senegalese boys who were beaten by a bunch of misguided miscreants who saw these kids as a treat to their privileged luxurious existence in, of all places, the Bronx, NY (Ebola as a hate crime click here). I guess it’s merely just a reminder to all of us, that prejudice and discrimination has no class or corner, it’s as alive and rife in poor immigrant neighborhoods as it is among the rest of America who cower in fear of being infected with this killer virus while riding in a taxicab.

What is more sad and more disturbing about the country’s response to this virus which has finally reached American shores, is that we are ostracizing and practically persecuting returning heroic heath careworkers: individuals who did not sit in fear, but who felt compelled to do their small share, to go into the “hot zones” and assist in fighting the spread of this virus. Is there any rational reason why these workers should be treated so unfairly? The governors and politicians scream public health and safety, but the virus only becomes active when the victim become ill. If these doctors, nurses and soldiers, who have been fighting this disease in West Africa can’t be relied on to protect themselves and seek treatment if or when they become ill, who can? These workers are now being treated like risk-taking rebels who should be shunned and quarantined, but they should be considered heroes instead.

Recent polls show that as much as 80% of Americans fear infection from ebola. But, no doubt, a similar poll would show that more than 80% of Americans couldn’t find West Africa on a map, and only a few could point out Liberia or Sierra Leone. The truth is that incidences of ebola has been erupting in West Africa for decades and little attention has been paid by Americans in the past. This disease was and has always been considered an African bush disease which killed some stupid money-eating people whose exotic and reckless cuisines came back to bite them. Served them right, yes?

In the past, Americans got comfort in the fact that Ebola was a movie plot, entertainment, that’s all. Now we all know the truth. We are all human beings, whether African or not. Without adequate treatment ebola can kill, not only people in the bush, but people in the good state of Texas, and maybe people in your state and in your town. But barring treatment and attention, swine flu and bird flu and HIV will do the same. Therefore, it is time for the governors and assorted politicians to stop the political fear-mongering. There is no plot by poor Black people or those who assisted them in Africa to invade the USA and wipe us all out.

The good news as reported on PBS is that because of treatment and attention the virus is lessening in West Africa. A western doctor working there reported that where his ebola care hospital had to turn away people a few months ago -- causing them to die outside its doors; they now have empty beds instead. Also, apparently there are ebola vaccines in the works which should be available in West Africa by April 2015. So let us follow the lead of our President who showed that it is quite ok to hug and kiss an ebola health worker, in fact, one who had been infected in the past. Remember, when we could not be in the same room as someone with AIDS. It’s time to drop the racial hysteria over ebola.

Rich King commentary click here
Rich King, aka Richard A King JD, is a son of Barbados and a New York City immigration lawyer who has helped refugees and immigrants in New York City and across the African continent click here
News feeds from US health agencies click here
The disease of ebola is being attacked aggressively in West Africa...but the message has changed.... the word ebola is used for hate crimes... click here