Our ignorance of Africa is more dangerous than Ebola

OPINION - OMG EBOLA IS HERE! EVERYBODY PANIC. No. Don’t. I’m just kidding. Although many people already have started, so this might be a little too late...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

OMG EBOLA IS HERE! EVERYBODY PANIC. No. Don’t. I’m just kidding. Although many people already have started, so this might be a little too late.

The first case of the Ebola virus diagnosed on American soil is here with Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas. The Liberian man came into the United States last week and unknowingly brought the deadly illness with him, shattering everyone’s safety bubble in one instant (even though there shouldn’t be one but more on that later). He is one of thousands who the current epidemic has touched, but his diagnosis here seems to have created something that looks like ramping hysteria as people freak out that maybe they were next.

Last month, two Americans who got infected while treating patients were airlifted out of Liberia and taken to Emory Hospital in Atlanta. The panic actually started then as people wondered why the virus was being brought closer to home. Apparently, while it was in certain regions of West Africa, it was ok because that was far away. People wondered why the CDC wouldn’t want to “keep that in Africa.” Oh ok. Let’s not use modern medicine and the best scientific minds to see how it can be handled better everywhere.

We should be glad they did bring those doctors, because now that someone has been diagnosed here, we’ll need whatever they used to treat those doctors and whatever lessons they learned in the process to ensure that it is contained.

Ebola wasn’t “our” problem before, but we forget that the entire world is pretty much a 20-hour plane ride away. Air travel makes the world tiny, and something on one side of the world is not as distant as we all think. So we were not protected, because the disease was just on the other side of the globe before 2 weeks ago.

We felt a bit better about it, but now it’s not just a problem for Africans to deal with. And now that it went past our doorstep, we need to face the facts without hysteria.

The Ebola virus is not the flu, and it should be taken very seriously because it is deadly, with an estimated 70% mortality rate. However, panicking is not (and has never been) productive in fighting (and winning) any battle. With it comes misinformation, stigmatizing and the vilifying of an entire region and people. The media is especially complicit in that process, as reporters do the most with the absolute least.

Andrea Tantaros, a FOX News host had the unmitigated gall to tell viewers that “in these countries they do not believe in traditional medical care, so someone could get off a flight and seek treatment from a witch doctor who practices Santeria. This is a bigger fear. We’re hoping they come to the hospitals in the U.S., but they might not!”

All the NOPES that ever NOPED in NOPELAND. I already know that FOX News broadcasts are the place where logic goes to die a slow painful death, but that’s EXTRA ignorant, even for them. That foolishness is a bridge to folks also wondering whether travel from West Africa needs to be barred until further notice. No amount of facepalming is sufficient enough to express my disgust about this. NONE.

The narrative about Africa has always been a simple, singular picture of the poor helpless, disease-ridden child with mosquitoes all over it. The continent is seen as one huge Sally Struthers commercial pleading for help, and the media will not let go of that depiction. While Africa does need aid, Africa is also rising. However, right now it’s seen as the Ebola zone. Like my shero Chimamanda Adichie said, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The entire continent is being stigmatized, and people are making stupid comments like, “You’re going to South Africa? Aren’t you worried about Ebola?” Yes, uninformed ignoramus. Because an Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone surely means you can’t visit anywhere else. Because Africa is one giant country.

As someone who was born and bred on the continent, I do feel extra sensitive about this, because I grew up hearing the bad jokes and the “did you all wear clothes?” teases. As if folks need one more thing to add to their pot of moronic jokes about Africans, this crisis has allowed them to double up.

What we need right now is for everyone to be educated on how the Ebola virus is transmitted. We also need governments from around the world to help the ones in West Africa who are in need of help in addressing and containing this epidemic. Communities are struggling, children are being orphaned and the disease is spreading, because in certain rural areas, there’s lack of adequate infrastructure to handle Ebola. We need the world’s brightest minds to help keep it from getting to pandemic proportions.

What we DO NOT NEED is panic. Although, if y’all keep freaking out and not wanting to go to anywhere on the continent of Africa, then prices for flights headed there will drop and the rest of us will buy these cheap tickets and go see the world.

While we’re on the topic of health, have you been tested for HIV lately? I mean … you have a greater chance of getting that than Ebola. In 2012 alone, 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related complications around the globe. You know how many have died from Ebola TOTAL? 4,000.

Come on, Saints and Aints. Chill.

Luvvie is a serial ranter and blogger who talks pop culture at Awesomely Luvvie, technology at Awesomely Techie and is the head behind DumbestTweets.com. She can also be found on Twitter (@Luvvie), Facebook and Instagram.