The Implicit Racism in Ebola Media Coverage

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In recent weeks, I have been religiously following the Ebola epidemic through news outlets and general discussions via social medias. It became interesting to see how Ebola has increasingly become portrayed with borderline racial undertones, along with covert traditional imagery of colonial ‘Dark Continent’. The disease has been portrayed as West African, or Afr

ican epidemic that is causing a grave threat to Western Health Care. The face of this threat has been masked as a ‘black’ issue, and unfortunately as this epidemic continues to grow – the racism associated with it has grown as well.

Ebola started to gain news coverage in 2013, when it claims the lives of a 2 year old Guinean boy and his family – leading to the beginning of Ebola epidemic which has now claimed 4,024 lives. Yet, Western media remained silent, and unbothered until two white American missionaries became inflected with the “African” disease disrupting the depiction of the African image tied to the outbreak. The lives of the white Americans seemed to outweigh the thousands of Africans who had succumbed to the disease. The Americans were flown out, and were administered the experimental anti-Ebola drug, ZMapp – and they survived.

Now, fast-forward to Thomas Eric Duncan – a Liberian man who was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, Texas. When he was diagnosed with Ebola in late September, the majority of the American public had little to no understanding of the disease. Many right-winged media reports used fear to spread xenophobia toward Africans by calling for travel bans to West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak (rather than pressuring their government to help speed up the process of the releasing the final version Zmapp to the African nations infected, and helping the many thousands of Africans who are in need of the drug).

The sage of Thomas Duncan has revealed the inevitable fact that covert xenophobia still exists within Western society – despite their claims of change. Thomas Duncan was dimmunisedand ridiculed by the US media. Despite his girlfriend, Louise,  publicly pleads for him to be given the experimental ZMapp medication that has already been given to two (white) American missionaries and proved to be  a successful treatment for Ebola. Duncan was eventually given an experimental drug, but it wasn’t until it was too late – six days after he was admitted into the hospital, he was given a “similar” drug called Brincidofovir. He shortly succumbed to the illness, and passed away.

It is ridiculous that in this day and age, the Western media can still create a media frenzy that consists of characterising Africans in a negative light while advocating racist and xenophobic sentiments while Ebola continues to kill thousands of people throughout Africa. The deaths of Africans were deemed as insignificant, and used as a tool of  exploitation to increase readership. The reality is that now Ebola has “reached”  the US, American privilege – white privilege seems to be evident. Since ZMapp is a Canadian drug, it is interesting to see the control the West has on Africans – yet again.

A life is a life, and despite your skin colour, nationality, or class status – everyone should have access to the same fighting chance to live a healthy and peaceful life. That ideal should not be a mystical ideology that should only grace articles, and academic documents due to its unrealistic nature – THAT should our reality.  Thomas Duncan was robbed of that fighting chance due to the incompetence of the system, the convenient delays in administering the anti-Ebola drug when he needed it, and because he was black. Ebola has been used as vessel by right-winged media outlets to exhibit racism, and blatant animosity towards Africans and that is unacceptable.

The reality is that America has again shown their xenophobia colours by blatantly using fear-mongering and ignorance to report about Ebola. Enough is enough, until we, as united African community stand together to end the inundation of ignorance, misinformation, racism, and xenophobia via the right-wing news media machine – they will continue to dehumanise Africa and Africans.

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