The Ebola Challenge: Bringing out the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Human Behavior
Let me give you a quick update on some aspects of the fight against Ebola. Tune into my Blog Talk Radio Show on the Ebola Challenge.
According to NBC News Today:
- America was declared “Ebola -Free” on 11/11/14, after the release of the New York doctor cured of the virus. Remember he went to Guinea on a medical mission where he contracted the disease; he is the last known Ebola patient in the USA. His girlfriend was quarantined three weeks and is also free today.
- A Liberian doctor who was infected (American citizen) arrived from Liberia a day after America was declared Ebola-free. He is the tenth Ebola patient to be treated in the USA.
- The controversial case of the nurse held in New Jersey is also over. She defiled the order to remain held in NJ after returning from W. Africa on a medical mission. The case got NJ Governor and some other politicians irrationally voicing their opinions and unsuccessfully vowing to keep her in NJ’s make-shift unfit tent for 21 days. She was only trying to give a vital message about Ebola: “Get to know more about Ebola transmission before subjecting people to unnecessary torture and instilling fear on the confused public”. That’s a powerful statement, but those in charge missed it! That’s why I am talking about the consequences of this confusion today.
- Ex-President George W. Bush visited and kissed the Texas nurse also cured and declared free. Lucky her! Her Nigerian counterpart was not that lucky and lost her life doing a similar noble duty. I guess it all boils down to location, location, location. She would have survived in a better-equipped setting. Hard luck indeed!
- Nigeria and a few other W. African countries had already been declared Ebola free by WHO, yet the stigma is even stronger. Why? Your answer depends on where you are coming from.
Let me give you my own account of this Ebola Saga:
According to statistics, Ebola has infected at least 13,000 people in West Africa and killed at least 5,000. If not stopped, the CDC estimates that up to 1.4 million people could be infected by the end of Jan 2015. These statistics are frightening and no wonder the united global effort against this deadly virus is vital as the world is now a small global village and things spread fast.
Local and international humanitarian organizations are doing wonders on all fronts and some are risking lives at the front line. Many generous people are pouring in cash and kind to this course. The litany of names of people and agencies doing wonderful things is long. Sometimes it takes this kind of global threat to bring out the best in human beings. I am personally grateful to all and encourage them to do more.
On the other hand , this West African Epidemic called Ebola has also brought out the worst in some people. Personally, I feel that this epidemic has taken us (people from Africa living in the western world) many years back in our struggle against our already-existing, unique African stigma. Ebola has brought us back to square one, and even further back than that. At least in those days, curious people would approach you and sarcastically ask you about your colorful and flowing outfit or ask permission to touch your braided hair since many of them had not seen or been that close to African people before.
We took pride to talk about ourselves and our cultures to the admiration of many. With this Ebola era, nobody would even like to shake hands with you, not to mention tasting your recipes. Just imagine the following wild, over- reactions and utterances marked by panic, ignorance, and intolerance:
- “Better safe than sorry” is a commonly-heard comment about Ebola from people in our society.
- Dozens of parents pulling their kids out of a Mississippi school after a rumor that its middle school principal visited Nigeria (a country already declared Ebola-free by WHO).
- A woman, traveling from Ghana to New York was put into quarantine on arrival at the NY airport because her name, E. Bola, was boldly printed everywhere on her luggage. Nobody wanted to touch the luggage with that label. It took a long time before she was released.
- In a local Chicago church, it is routine for first-time visitors to introduce themselves and be welcomed with hand shakes and hugs by members of the congregation. On that very Sunday, a team of six delegates stood up and announced that they arrived yesterday from Nigeria for a wedding. As they were still standing, smiling, and looking around expecting the usual flow of members towards them, instead they saw those sitting next to them moving away and nobody except the priest went to shake hands with them. After the services, their usual coffee hour in the basement hall was populated by the members as this team of visitors headed to that hall. The shock and embarrassment left these visitors confused and disappointed. One of them approached the priest and said,”We are from Nigeria, not Liberia, in case the congregation did not understand our accent”. The priest only smiled helplessly and shrugged his shoulders in disappointment.
- “If this doctor, who so recklessly flew into NY from West Africa, has Ebola,then Obama should apologize to the American people and resign”. –Donald Trump (as per Josh Kilburn).
There are so many other documented hysterical reactions of the Ebola outbreak and most came from educators and public officials who should know better. If you go online and Google “Ebola stigma”, you will be shocked at the extent of reported emotional anguish many African Immigrants are enduring since the Ebola outbreak. Is it ignorance, discrimination, hatred, racism, or Afro-phobia? I do not know. Even some people with our skin color show similar behavior towards us. The problem is also affecting some of our children and grandchildren in school. Though most of them were born and raised in this culture and have no accent, still their names expose them to the same stigmatization and Ebola bullying. Some of them are on the verge of dropping out of school because of Ebola humiliation, and the authorities seem helpless about the problem.
My question is this: What kind of damage control must we use in order to emotionally survive this epidemic? Even when the virus is under control and preventive measures put in place, will this stigma ever go away?
Some African Immigrants working in the healthcare system are equally experiencing this Ebola-inflicted harassment. I called my clinic last week to make an appointment for my routine check up, but once a secretary who answered the phone heard my accent, she asked me when I last visited Africa before she could give me an appointment. How she even knew that I am from Africa and not any of the islands was a surprise to me. African Immigrants in Europe and other parts of the western world are reporting similar treatment since the Ebola outbreak. How do we erase this damaging stigma and whom do we run to for help? I was also informed that some of these children experiencing this discrimination are taking their frustration out on their family. Some are threatening to change their names, and others even prefer to go to foster homes. In fact the extent of the emotional damage caused by unnecessary Ebola hysteria is underestimated and no sign of help is visible at this time. We understand that some schools are implementing Ebola-sensitivity training. Let’s hope it will help.
I am sure people in Africa are not experiencing this kind of emotional torture. Some African families here are thinking of moving back home and deal with the virus there, rather then to be subjected to such dehumanization here. I am praying that there will be no Ebola-triggered suicides or homicides as this tension goes uncontrolled. I have also gotten reports that some African Immigrants are fighting back in schools and workplaces. A young woman in Dallas told me that during the controversy of Mr. Duncan’s infection and treatment in that city, she was confronted at her office with all sorts of questions and comments about how the society is being polluted by her African people and why she should go back home and keep the virus over there. She had no choice but to fight back challenging them with the fact that the virus was initially created by Western Research teams experimenting with humans and animals in Africa just as they did with the HIV/AIDS virus. With such heated accusations from her, they backed off but many avoided any contact with her even though she has not visited any part of Africa for years. She is now very miserly at work and she says she is thinking of looking for another job. What a sacrifice to make!
The confusion and division caused by this virus here in America will soon take a big toll on the workforce as many hardworking African Immigrants contributing significantly to the economy may be negatively impacted somehow and soon too. I also wonder about the implications of this Ebola Saga on the soon-to-be announced Immigration Policy for Africa. Who knows what disease will break out next and be traced to Africa?
In inclusion, I commend the global efforts fighting the Ebola outbreak. I regret the heavy burden of the stigma placed on the shoulders of so many innocent African immigrants. I am in sympathy with the families who have lost loved ones to this disease. I pray that African leaders will see the need to take a leadership role in this fight against Ebola. God bless America and the western world helping to fight this virus.
–Dr. Mother Love
P.S. Tune into my Blog Talk Radio Show on The Ebola Challenge.