Things we should freak out over instead of Ebola

by Olivia Chow | October 21, 2014 1:47 pm

Dear everybody — Please stop freaking out about Ebola. I’m not making light of illness, I’m just trying to bring some sanity back to what the real threats in our country truly are.

Here are the facts on Ebola. And here is a chart to show your likelihood of catching the virus. You probably don’t have it, despite what a (however well-intentioned) source says otherwise. Take the common sense of Peter Pattakos, who was in the same shop as Dallas nurse Amber Vinson. When asked if was worried about becoming infected after being in the sick nurse’s proximity, he replied:

“I didn’t exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I’m not worried about it. I’m much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop.”

Police brutality is a daily fear for millions of Americans – yet our top cause of concern remains fixated on something that only a fraction of the population may even be remotely impacted by. America faces true threats that we all must address with commitment and vigilance – but Ebola is not one of them. And the longer we as a society laser in on “fighting” it, the farther we are from any progress towards justice for the victims of our other “wars” we have declared. If we have learned anything from America’s “War on Drugs” or “War on Poverty” it is that, too often, communities of color are caught in the crosshairs.

We have previously outlined how the manufactured “war on drugs” was an impetus for the bloated “criminal justice” system that ravages poor black and brown communities. Mass media is complacent in portraying communities of color as the main perpetrators, despite clear evidence that drug use cuts across demographics. If Americans think black and brown faces commit crimes, we will institute racialized tactics to target them, like traffic stops and stop and frisk. According to Michael Wines for the New York Times,

“The evidence is clear that some police law-enforcement tactics — traffic stops, to cite one example — disproportionately target African-Americans. And few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.”

Another reality in our country’s perverse system of corrections is punishing and incarcerating people for working through poverty instead of finding ways to help families work their way out of poverty. A reality that too many mothers face is how to afford childcare while working. We box those with convictions out of the work force and then lock them back up for being unable to pay whopping “criminal justice” fees and fines.

This has awarded the United States the proud title of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our “criminal justice” system controls 2.4 million people in federal and state prisons, local jails and similar facilities and detention centers, nearly 4 million people on probation, and over 850,000 people on parole.

The circus around Ebola is a distraction from the reality – we are in a fight right now to elect leaders who speak for us. Bad politicians are elected by good people who do not vote. Get engaged, vote to demand accountability from the media and politicians to address the real issues that plague our country.

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