Don't Worry, I Am Liberian And I Don't Have Ebola

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Nvaseki Konneh: Ebola-free like the millions of other Liberians, West Africans, and Africans in general

Ebola stigmatization is real. I too have experienced it.

The first was on the Arik Airline flight from Lagos to New York on August 20, 2014 while returning from Liberia.

I sat with this old man from Lagos, Nigeria. We did not say anything to one another until 45 minutes to our arrival in New York. I struck a conversation with him. He said he is a Nigerian but resides in New Jersey and he's a pastor of a church there.

When I told him I am a Liberian returning to the U.S., he got up and said he was going to the bathroom. I did not see him again until we were disembarking.

(There have also been reports of Africans who are not even from any of the affected countries losing their jobs, being barred from schools, and of young students being physical beaten by class mates or verbally abused).

Fast forward to a week ago. At a training sessions for a new job here in Philadelphia, I was told to use the desk and computer of a co-worker who did not come to work that day. The next morning she came and I was told to share her desk and computer since it was training section. When she asked where I was from, I told her Liberia. Her facial expression changed. She moved to sit with another person.

Then I was assigned my own desk later on that day. She brought wipes to wipe her desk and computer and said, "I know someone will feel bad but I have to protect myself."

The next day when I came, I brought a note with the message, "I know how you feel about me because I am a Liberian. But don't worry about me because I don't have Ebola."

Since then, the stigmatization has gone away. She stops at my desk now to chat with me, even bringing me news today that she read in the newspaper about an African woman who was misdiagnosed of Ebola and was quarantined, only to come find out she had not even been to Africa in recent time.

My coworker now believes that "stigmatization is ignorant and wrong."

 

Nvasekie N. Konneh is a Liberian poet and writer and veteran of the US Navy. He’s the author of “Going to War for America” and "The Land off My Father's Birth," a memoir of the Liberian civil war. He can be reached at KonnLove@aol.com or (267) 206-8909.

Please send your Ebola stigmatization encounters and stories to milton@blackstarnews.com for publication

 

 

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