The death of Thomas Eric Duncan – the first Ebola death in the United States – has caused a firestorm in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area as well as around the world. Of focus is increased racism and xenophobia (see this headline?) toward African immigrants as a result of the Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 4,000, mostly in Western Africa.
A Raw Story article reports that African immigrants who live around Duncan’s Vickery Park area have reported being turned away from jobs as well as being refused service, among other instances of Ebola-fueled discrimination. Children of African immigrants are also labeled as “Ebola Kids”. presents immigrants from Somalia – thousands of miles away from the epidemic mind you- have had fingers pointed at them.
Xenophobia has reached its apex in social media, especially as Dinesh D’Souza, Michael Savage and other conservative commentators have been able to conflate anti-Obama sentiment with Ebola hysteria with the hashtag #Obola, a portmanteau of indescribably ignorant proportions. For example, there are people who claim that President Obama’s refusal to secure the southern border will bring Ebola-infested “illegals”. Rush Limbaugh believes that Ebola is payback for slavery. They do not care that Ebola is difficult to transmit, or that there has been insufficient funding and training to combat an Ebola crisis. Immigrants have the disease, and so far as we can help it, they should stay away from our borders.
These examples show that Ebola-fueled xenophobia dehumanizes African immigrants here as well as those suffering from this terrible disease in Western Africa. What is uncontroversial is that Ebola is firmly in the global consciousness. With that said, the amount of anti-immigrant, racist vitriol representative of actions such as the #Obola hashtag requires energy that could be better used to demanding that our politicians fund the CDC, to help the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia.