We have more in common with the ignorant backwoods of West Africa than we would like to admit. Via The Guardian: 'I am a Liberian, not a virus': west Africans hit back against Ebola stigma. Excerpt:
“You’re from Liberia, so you have a disease”.
When Shoana Solomon’s nine-year-old daughter came home from her American school and told her mother what her classmates were saying, Solomon knew there was trouble ahead.
Solomon, a photographer and TV presenter, moved her daughter to the US from a school in Liberia’s capital Monrovia in September. Despite coming from an Ebola zone, she says she was not subjected to any particular scrutiny upon arrival on American soil.
But as fear about Ebola mounts, Liberians in the US are increasingly finding themselves in a difficult position. With stigma and paranoia on the rise, Solomon has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging others to treat Liberians normally.
“The day after that happened to my daughter, I made a Facebook post,” Solomon told the Guardian. “I said, oh my goodness, my daughter’s being stigmatised. I said: Get ready.”
The next day, Solomon received a phonecall from her sister, who lives in the US.
“Her daughter was in school and sneezed a couple of times. They took her temperature and placed her alone in a room, called my sister and said, given the situation...”
Solomon’s sister was asked to temporarily remove her daughter from school: a girl who has never been to Liberia, and has not had contact with anyone returning from Liberia for two years.
Solomon’s family are not alone. All over the US, Liberians are painfully experiencing what it means to come from a country so closely associated with the current Ebola outbreak. Late last week, a town hall meeting held in Staten Island, New York, brought together Liberians to denounce the stigmatising of their community. The Staten Island neighbourhood of Little Liberia is home to the largest population of Liberians outside Africa.
Outside the meeting, Liberian-American Charles Roberts told ABC News: “When they ask you where you come from and you say Liberia, then they turn their back on you.”
There have been reports of Liberians in Washington being instructed to temporarily leave work. “If I’m on the metro, I don’t talk,” Liberian writer Alphonso Toweh told the Washington Post. “If I’m on the bus, I don’t talk. If people hear the accent, they think you are Liberian, then you have Ebola.”