Ebola: How Racism And American Exceptionalism Could Enable U.S. Outbreak


If you’ve followed Ebola on social media at all, it’s likely you’ve run into two rather extreme reactions to the deadly virus so far – people puffing up with heightened fear to the point of panic, as illustrated by the fella who simply sneezed on a plane and was suddenly confronted by a team of hazmat suits, and people bloated with disdain for those in fear, slinging feces like monkeys in a zoo at those with a tinge of worry over the matter. Neither reaction is helpful or any more spot on than the other. The truth is, no one knows what may be in store for the U.S. or any other country when it comes to Ebola, no matter how much reassurance of protocols the government and media state are in place.

What is known, however, is that the Corporate States of America are rampant with racism, arrogance, and a sense of American exceptionalism at a time of cutbacks, corner-cutting and severe lack of regulations and oversight. This is not to say there are not many wonderful aspects of the U.S., so put your pitchforks away, but this country was “founded” on racism and genocide against indigenous peoples, built up by slave labor, and kept economically viable through similar means by under-employing and underpaying people of color. That’s just historical fact. It has functioned, and continues to function, largely through that same pipeline. Consider, for example, how much race issues have bubbled to the surface since Barack Obama took office. It doesn’t take a genius to know the racists would be jumping through their hooded robes after the first black president has been elected.

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Because of the delusion of the Euro-centric manifest destiny that invaded and colonized the U.S., due to the heinous lack of humanity and behavior that proceeded in its wake as the country developed into its current state and position, Americans have developed an unusual sense of arrogance, of superiority, and of what is now known as American exceptionalism. This was underlined further yet by its role in WWII and has only grown more exaggerated and grotesque by each generation since. The notion of the “superiority” of the U.S. has even long begun infecting the very people of color it oppresses, like a virus all its own, better known as “institutionalization”.

It is this intersection of racism, American exceptionalism, institutionalization and deadly disease (in this case, Ebola) that could very well prove to be the Achilles heel of the United States when facing large-scale biological infection and contamination.

  • Consider that the United States plays an enormous role in the exploitation of the African continent, contributing to a lack of resources and thriving economies, thereby enabling ill-preparation for appropriate response to large-scale disease.
  • Consider that this plays into the long-standing vision, history, and agenda of the U.S. government, which has always treated people of color as disposable components of the economic machine.
  • Ask yourself if issues such as the above two points could have played a role in the U.S. not playing a larger role in stemming the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and elsewhere.
  • Now ask yourself whether a sense of American exceptionalism and arrogance could lend itself to believing a large-scale outbreak may be possible in Africa, largely considered “the Dark Continent” by Americans, yet impossible in good old white, 1st world America.
  • Follow that up by asking yourself, Why? What is the distinction that makes it possible in Africa yet allegedly impossible in the United States? Are we not in the midst of an era of corner-cutting cutbacks, dishonest government, shoddy regulations and oversight? Is our own health care system not much more than a hollow fraud fronting big business for pharmaceutical companies?
  • Finally, ask yourself whether U.S. citizens are any more immune to human error than those anywhere else in the world. All it took the health care worker in Spain to become infected, after all, was momentarily touching her face with her glove after working with the patient.

According to the Blaze, the nephew of the first person to die of Ebola on U.S. soil, Josephus Weeks, told CNN on Saturday regarding Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital’s initially sending his uncle, Thomas Eric Duncan, home with a raging fever:

Eric Duncan was treated unfairly. Eric walked into the hospital, the other patients were carried in after an 18 hour flight.

It is suspicious to us that all the white patients survived and this one black patient passed away.

It took eight days to get him medicine. He didn’t begin treatment in Africa, he began treatment here, but he wasn’t given a chance.

Weeks has also stated on Duncan and Ebola:

He’s the only person that has died from Ebola here in America. He’s a black man. He’s poor, didn’t have insurance.

Had [Duncan] been another name, you know, or another color, he would probably be living today and he would have survived it. And that’s what’s really hurting me the most, is because they treated him the way they did because of the color of his skin, and that’s very upsetting and disturbing, and know that you stand a chance if you’re white, but you don’t if you’re black.

And that racism Weeks refers to is very real in the U.S. whether one wishes to acknowledge it or not. That blindness to racism, to the needs and humanity of people of color, could be the wedge that opens the door to outbreak in the country, especially when coupled with the arrogance and attitude that “it couldn’t happen here.” Why not? Of course it could. In fact, the latest health care worker in Texas, recently diagnosed as the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil, proves that it absolutely can happen here, so protocol breaches such as the woman allowed to walk out of quarantine up in Boston only a day ago should be alarming whether the patient in question ultimately ends up having Ebola or not. Protocol doesn’t mean much if it isn’t being followed, or doesn’t have a backup plan for human error.

So, by all means, America, avoid hysteria and panic. That helps no one and only fuels misinformation. But let’s also stop acting like an Ebola outbreak on American soil is impossible. After all, it is our own history, our own bigotry and prejudice, our own delusions, ultimately, that could very well open the door to the biggest fears the cynics are so vocally disgusted with, and wouldn’t that be a fitting, ironic turn in a country colonized on the threads and fibers of diseased blankets given as gifts to the indigenous inhabitants and caretakers of the land so many years ago.

Be calm, America, but keep your eyes open.

(Video courtesy of CNN)

(Photo of Thomas Eric Duncan courtesy of newsworks.org)

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