Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the United States, was not the right kind of victim for the west: he wasn’t a pretty young woman smiling in sunglasses as a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Bentley licks her cheek; he didn’t have a young, benevolent doctor’s face that looks “appropriate” plastered on newspapers; he wasn’t a kindly older nurse who told reporters how God had spared her. He wasn’t the kind of person to whom primetime news specials would dedicate 20 minutes and glorify with quotes from loved ones about his kind spirit or ceaseless determination to overcome an unfair affliction.
Thomas Eric Duncan was black, he was poor, and he was African.
That he was.
Oops! My bad. That’s George Obama. Honest mistake. The list of poor black Africans betrayed by the West is virtually endless.
Note how the writer didn’t say he was the first American to die of Ebola. There have been plenty of those already: saintly souls who’ve risked their lives to help the sick and needy. Risked them and lost them. And Duncan certainly wasn’t the first African to die of the disease. He finished somewhere in the 4,000s, I believe. And Duncan wasn’t American.
No, he happened to be in the statistically unique position to be the first person to die of a disease endemic to Africa in the geographic proximity of the United States (as many of us feel about Texas).
Well, it had to be somebody. And it was likely (given all the above) that it would be a poor, black African.
And being the first, is it any wonder he was first misdiagnosed? Even if he hadn’t lied to get here, hadn’t shamed his country (according to the president of the country) by spreading the disease to a new continent, he would still likely have been misdiagnosed. Why would Dallas know Ebola even when it was staring them in the face?
But what do I know?
(CNN) — The tragedy of Ebola is not just its staggering toll. It’s also the implicit racism that the deadly virus has spawned. The anecdotes are sickening, particularly a Reuters report this week that children of African immigrants in Dallas — little ones with no connection to Thomas Duncan, the Liberian Ebola patient who died Wednesday in a local hospital — have been branded “Ebola kids” simply because of their heritage or skin color.
In both the United States and Europe, Ebola is increasing racial profiling and reviving imagery of the “Dark Continent.” The disease is persistently portrayed as West African, or African, or from countries in a part of the world that is racially black, even though nothing medically differentiates the vulnerability of any race to Ebola.
Duh! People know you don’t have to be black to get Ebola. That’s why people are scared.
But Ebola is African. It’s named after a river in the Congo. It seems to be tied to African fruit bats. Its outbreaks—until now—have been in Africa alone. Do Africans get gout?
We just go done with the canard that Republicans caused Ebola by cutting funding (ads declaring such have been pulled). Now, this.
We’re not too smart, I guess. Our response to a litany of threats and tragedies is limited to blaming ourselves. It gets old fast, if you ask me.