The US imposes a travel ban on 8 African countries over Omicron. Other countries with the same virus detected but not banned include Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong, UK and Germany. This calls for a lesson on transmogrification (the Western gaze that views the African/Black human as a dangerous creature). Its opposite is humanization. Stay with me.

Now, you will find that disease and dignity occupy the same storyboard. When a human being is at their weakest, you can either tell a story of courage or contempt about them. Reputations are built by others’ narratives about you, told during your weakest point.

BUT- when it comes to global narratives like pandemics, the race that controls the storytelling gets to choose who gets dignified and who gets disgraced. It’s about maintaining place, power and privilege. A cough in Soweto that kills only 2 will be told differently from a cough in London that kills 200. Isn’t it interesting that even without saying it, you already know which cough will be dignified.

Here are some fun numbers for you. Remember Ebola killed 13,000 people in Africa (0.0000001% of the population), and the stories about Ebola instilled dread and disgust on the global stage. They aimed to indignify, a direct effect of transmogrification. On the other hand, Covid19 has so far killed 771,000 Americans and 1.5 million Europeans, shocking numbers, yet the stories about Covid19 are generally of compassion and courage. They aim to dignify, a direct effect of humanization.

I hope we have situated this selective banning properly. It’s not that Africans want to come to America.. well, let me qualify that– of course we wish for that human freedom to travel anywhere in the world, all factors permitting.. the thing is, we’re tired of the mongrelization.

*First published on November 27, 2021

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