Several leaders in a Staten Island neighborhood that’s home to a large Liberian community said Friday they are concerned about discrimination amid Ebola fears.
The comments came at a town hall meeting held by New York City Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett to address concerns about the virus.
Togba Porte, chairman of the American Ebola Crisis Committee, said some people are afraid of losing their jobs, or have been sent home after returning to work from visits overseas, even to areas not affected by Ebola.
Jennifer Gray-Brumskine, a community organizer, said some neighborhood residents have stayed home for a week or more after traveling to Liberia. She also recounted a negative reaction from fellow passengers on a recent flight after they heard her accent.
And Jonathan King, who works for the city Department of Education, said he has noticed formerly friendly co-workers avoid him, even though he hasn’t been in Africa for years.
“They don’t come close to me anymore. They don’t want to shake my hand,” he said. “They don’t want anything to do with me.”
Staten Island is home to a large community of immigrants from Liberia, one of three West African countries ravaged by Ebola. The meeting was conducted in a neighborhood often referred to as “Little Liberia.”
The city is committed “to making sure that no one feels discriminated against,” Bassett told the crowd. “Because misperceptions are not only wrong, they help spread disease.”