Ebola panic has turned the world of many Americans with West African roots upside-down. Mainstream media has gleefully fanned the flames of panic, and panic has left to stigma, prejudice, and even bullying.
Liberian American Shoana Solomon found this out firsthand out when she sent her nine-year-old daughter to school in Wilmington, Delaware. As media stories about Ebola’s ooutbreak made its way into the mainstream media, her daughter found herself a target of jokes and sneers. “She was on the playground playing with one of her friends, skipping, holding hands on the playground and this girl tells her friend, ‘Don’t touch her, don’t touch her she has a disease,'” Solomon told Public Radio International. “She walks through the hallways and she hears the kids making Ebola jokes and talking about West Africans and whatnot.”
In response Shoana Solomon started a campaign called “I am a Liberian, not a virus,” to combat the stigma of Ebola with two other concerned women of Liberain descent. Solomon says her own daughter is coping with the stigma as best she can — “she just kind of ignores it and walks by” — but many children are crushed by the stigma. That’s why Solomon and three other Liberian women started an awareness campaign: “I am Liberian,” they proclaim. “Not a virus.”
The campaign hopes to combat fear and spread awareness.