With U.S. Ebola fear running high, African immigrants face ostracism

Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:37pm EDT
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By Sharon Bernstein

(Note: Please be advised that the second paragraph contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)

(Reuters) - When Zuru Pewu picked up her 4-year-old son, Micah, from kindergarten at a Staten Island, New York, public school recently, a woman pointed at her in front of about 30 parents and their children, and started shouting.

"She kept screaming, 'These African bitches brought Ebola into our country and are making everybody sick!'" said Pewu, 29, who emigrated from Liberia in 2005. "Then she told her son, 'You know the country that's called Liberia that they show on the TV? That's where these bitches are from.'"

Pewu's experience points to an alarming trend. While many Americans have reached out to help, African communities in the United States are reporting an increasing number of incidents of ostracism.

Thursday's news that a physician who had treated Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the disease in New York heightened anxieties even further.

Some Liberians, whose home country has been hardest hit by the worst outbreak of the virus on record, say they are being shunned by friends and co-workers and fear losing their jobs.

In California, doctors refused to examine a child believed to have been in contact with someone who traveled to West Africa but turned out to have no risk of Ebola, a nurses' association said. In Rhode Island, two women said they were disinvited to a baby shower for a co-worker.

And in South Carolina, a high school student was sent home for 14 days because the student's parent had visited Senegal, a country that has had one non-fatal case of Ebola and was declared Ebola-free last week, according to a school spokesman.   Continued...

Zuru Pewu holds her four-year-old son Micah inside a home in the Staten Island borough of New York October 23, 2014. Pewu, 29, who emigrated from Liberia in 2005, and her son Micah recently underwent an experience where they were insulted and linked to the spread of the Ebola virus.     REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton