Ebola jokes are unacceptable


Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

Gabby Sones

Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press
Making jokes about Ebola is tasteless and a symptom of North American teenage privilege. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

Over the past few months, Ebola, the deadly illness that has swept Western Africa and even graced other parts of the world, has become prevalent in North American pop culture. It’s a craze that’s taken both the digital and personal lives of American teens by storm. It’s an illness, so this isn’t the reaction people should be having to it, but unfortunately it’s the “yolo,” the “your mom,” the “trill,” the “swag” and the “hella” of 2014. When one of these fads starts to get big, all anyone wants to do is talk about it, letting all their friends and followers know that they too are hip and educated on a newly popular phrase.

So at the moment, everyone is talking about Ebola. This is expected, considering it is an infectious and generally fatal disease, though most the talk I’ve been hearing around school hasn’t been treating the subject with anything near the amount of significance it deserves. What I hear at school in regards to the Ebola virus isn’t informative or necessary; it’s just pointless jokes.

The symptoms range from coughing, chest pain, and nausea to severe weight loss, rash, and internal bleeding. Total knee-slappers.


Take a look Inside the Ebola Epicenter in West Africa: “Things are getting crazy down here.


But surely teenagers realize that this is a deadly virus. So why are they throwing it around like it’s just comical slang? It’s now just something else to make a joke out of. Something else to use as a punchline. An ignorant slur. “Why are you coughing?” “I have Ebola.”

Ignorantly sarcastic comments like this flourish in the social media world. Twitter is exploding with tasteless posts and pictures that portray Ebola as a laughing matter. Some samples of these can be seen below.

The internet comments may be inappropriate and cruel, but Ebola jokes were taken to a new extent when a 54-year-old man on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic sneezed. Fortunately, sneezing is not on the list of Ebola symptoms, but unfortunately this man still followed up his sneeze with “I have Ebola; you’re all screwed.” The consequence of this comment left the other passengers waiting for two hours while the jester was escorted off the plane by HAZMAT suit-clad security. He was found not to have symptoms of Ebola.

Though not everyone making inconsiderate Ebola jokes is causing an inconvenience to the public, it’s still an insufferable deed. Joking about Ebola is not bringing some sort of light-heartedness to a worldwide issue, it’s making it seem like it’s nothing to worry about.

People all over West Africa are living in constant fear of catching a disease that there’s basically no hope of recovering from. While they’re witnessing the gory deaths of friends and relatives and trying to protect their children, we’re living it up with our flawless, underground sewage system, laughing at their problem.

Maybe you’ve tweeted, or even merely retweeted, a careless Ebola joke. If so, you’re probably feeling pretty defensive, and want to argue that you aren’t laughing at the West Africans who are at risk of catching the illness. You’re just trying to make a joke.

Unfortunately, regardless of whether or not your intentions are malicious, you’ll never just be “making a joke.” Every time you retweet an Ebola meme or joke with your friends about how “contagious” you are, you’re marginalizing the cause.

By making the disease something to laugh about, people begin to see it as an insignificant issue. Maybe you think you’re smart enough to joke around about the serious illness, yet still possess awareness on how fatal it is, but there’s an unavoidable consequence in doing this.

Africa contains many developing countries that are popular within current media, so it often gets thrown into the mix of uneducated slurs made by mostly young Americans. When you drop some crumbs on the ground, someone says “don’t waste food, people are starving in Africa.”

It’s heartbreaking that our society is this uneducated, because Africa does have largely developed, well fed communities. South Africa is full of major cities. People make generalizations that all of Africa is this starved wasteland. There’s still parts of Africa that are in need, and we should continue to raise awareness for them, but American teenagers should realize that it’s offensive to regard all of Africa as Third World.

How does this relate to Ebola jokes you ask? Both involve a major misconception that spreads through popularity amongst teens. The more people laugh over something that wasn’t even funny in the first place, the more preconceived notions people make about Africa.


To read more about Ebola, check out the Five Biggest Misconceptions about Ebola


Ebola jokes are just another fad, but they aren’t quite the same as past crazes. They’re made by people who aren’t fully aware of what they’re saying, then amplified by the teen population of America. A misunderstood idea of how serious Ebola really is has been distributed. People think it’s a laughing matter, but it’s ruining lives in other parts of the world.

Next time you hear an Ebola joke, think about how funny it really is before you laugh.



Storify Credit: Gabby Sones/The Foothill Dragon Press

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