"Special Treatment"

Western media’s coverage of Ebola proves disappointing

Look at a map of Africa that’s true-to-size. It’s hard to understand how a huge continent can be mistaken for a country by some. In fact, Africa is comprised of 47 nations; yet in the recent coverage of Ebola, themedia news outlets doesn’t seem to know the difference between the Western African nations where the disease actually hits hardest, and all of the other countries.

Along with the horror the disease has created, the true terror of Ebola lies in the sloppy coverage of the subject which has become the newest form of marginalizing not only people directly from Africa, but also the diaspora across the globe. 

Conversations about the survivors of Ebola here in the States have been reduced to a “They are so brave!” narrative that completely ignores the people of the affected countries who have been doing it for and by themselves with garbage bags as hazmat suits. People of the African diaspora in particular have been “doing it for” and “by themselves” for quite sometime in the face of institutionalized oppression. Consider this a new-age version of “The White man’s burden:” a disease that is curable is now capable of becoming a tool for mass-misinformation, hysteria and pharmaceutical profit.

Bias and discrimination have also shown up as the virus has made its way here. When a couple of Bronx boys get beaten at the schoolyard and their attackers repeatedly call them “Ebola” and “Africa” - a deadly virus has become too closely equated with blackness. When the main focus of the “hero doctors and nurses” narrative skims over the people of color also risking their lives, it reinforces an idea that Western ideology seems to so desperately want to cling to – heroic humanitarian intervention being the necessary ingredient to solving a dangerous situation.

If you really care about the Ebola crisis and of the people afflicted by it, you should also be mindful of the overt and covert ways that racism plays out in every part of life for people in those West African nations - from international affairs, non-profit industrial complexes, and foreign aid - to right here in Harlem and New York City, where jokes are made and people are (re)traumatized.

What’s the solution? We must decentralize not only the way that the mainstream news is broadcast to us, but also how we process these kinds of events, both at home and abroad. Only then can we possibly hope to transform the world we live in for the better. Until then, if you’re simply getting your information from CNN or Fox News, you’ve wasted time learning about how to actually help those in need.

 

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