Ebola Panic Is Making Life Miserable For Some West Africans In The US

Staten island ebola summitDarren Ornitz/ReutersFreda Koomson, project coordinator and health consultant for the African Ebola Crisis Committee, speaks on her phone while attending an ‘Ebola Summit’ in Staten Island.

Two brothers who recently emigrated from Senegal were allegedly beaten up in the Bronx on Friday afternoonby several people who called them “Ebola.” The boys, who are in sixth and eighth grade, were severely injured and had to be taken to the hospital after the attack, the African Advisory Council told NBC New York.

No new cases of Ebola have been reported in Senegal since August, and the country was declared Ebola-free on Oct. 17.

The attack is just the latest incidence of bullying of Africans since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

Liberians have become especially stigmatised since Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan became the only person to die of Ebola on US soil. Residents of Staten Island’s Liberian community — the largest outside of Africa — have faced discrimination both inside and outside the workplace since the Ebola panic began, according to the New York Post.

After returning home from seeing her family in Liberia, Staten Island resident Oretha Bestman-Yates, 43, was forced by her bosses to take an upaid leave of absence, she told the Post. And she is not the only one: Liberian-American activist Saymendy Lloyd told Al-Jazeera America “there are so many Liberians in the Dallas area that have been put out of work — a professor was sent home for 21 days for no reason.”

Shoana Solomon, who moved from Monrovia in September, decided to take action after her 9-year-old daughter returned from school one day announcing that her classmates had told her, “You’re from Liberia, you have a disease.”

That day, Solomon launched a social media campaign called “I am a Liberian, not a virus,” that she hopes will stop people from treating Liberians like walking epidemics.

Liberians are not the only ones facing discrimination, however.

Ahmed Kargbo, a Staten Island resident from Sierra Leone, told the New York Post that when people hear his accent on the subway they get up and move away from him. Two high school soccer coaches in Pennsylvania resigned after their players hurled Ebola taunts at an opponent from Guinea, the Associated Press reported. And a Pulitzer-winning journalist was disinvited from speaking at Syracuse University because he had recently returned from working in Liberia.

Other schools have also bought into the panic. In October, a Nigerian student was rejected from a Texas community college on the grounds that the school was not accepting international students “from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.”

An Atlanta-area public school is reportedly refusing to enroll any new students from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea without a medical sign-off, and parents pulled children from a middle school in Hazelhurt, Mississippi after the principal attended his brother’s funeral in Zambia.

Zambia is 2,000 miles away from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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