Monday, May 4, 2009

Obligatory Swine Flu Post (Or: Why I don't want to make a big deal of it)

Someone else here must have noticed how it only became something to worry about when there was one American casualty. The 152 Mexicans just didn't seem to have the same impact, but one baby in America and the news goes nuts.

And what good is it to them to go nuts right now, at this particular time? Other than the obvious benefits of sensationalism to news networks, swine flu is being used to stoke the white supremacist anti-immigration crazies, which is my main objection to the hysteria. I was reading about it the other day and the top story on my Google news search starts with the following: "311 Swine Flu Deaths! Close the Mexico Border!"

Because, you see, brown people are filthy and diseased. Contact with them will kill you. Never mind that it was white tourists who brought the disease across the border.

For a further rundown of the highly-racialized discussion on this topic, check my acquaintance's blog over here, where she's made a good compilation of examples.

See also here:

With swine flu now hitting the United States, I figured it was only a matter of time before someone started to blame Mexican people. But this is an impressive turn-around, even for Michael Savage and Neil Boortz. Plus they get the "OMG terrorizm!" aspect in there too:

Neil Boortz claims that Mexico doesn't have a CDC, so from the perspective of someone who wants to commit an act of bioterrorism against U.S. citizens, "What better way to sneak a virus into this country than to give it to Mexicans?"

At least one better way comes immediately to mind.

One would think that if terrorists were going to release a virus with the intent of killing Americans, they would do it on, say, the New York City subway system and not on a Mexican pig farm. But there are no lengths to which these guys won't go in order to convince us that we're constantly on high Terror Alert in the face of threats from any passing brown people.

It's phenomenal how easily these guys can fit anything - including a potential global health pandemic - into a one-size-fits-all racist narrative about Mexicans being dirty and sneaky mules. It's phenomenal that they can get away with it even in a situation like this, where the virus was spread outside of Mexico in large part because of tourists. And it's particularly appalling in its victim-blaming - is it so easy to forget that 150 people have died in Mexico, and thousands more are living in fear?

I'm just trying not to participate in something that is becoming so irrational, y'know? All we can do about this is the same thing we do about any illness, unfortunately. It's just that the consequences are worse if we don't*. That's my critique on the whole thing. If I talk a whole lot on my blog or on my forums about this, I feel like I'm feeding this great nasty racist side of it no matter what I say.

So I haven't been encouraging the alarm for that reason, even though I agree it's troubling that it's going after those with healthy immune systems (with the exception of the infant casualty). With that, I leave you with this important website, relevant to your interests:

*The consequences are also notable when you consider that our government's phobic avoidance of regulating businesses has created a situation in which citizens are being urged to stay home if they're sick to avoid the spread of infection, but cannot afford to do so because employers are not actually required to give employees paid sick time.

If you actually want to do something to help prevent the further spread of diseases like this one--though likely change won't come in time to significantly affect this outbreak--please consider using this tool to send your Congressperson an email supporting the Healthy Families Act, which will allow workers to care for their health and the health of their families without having to choose between forgoing needed pay and spreading deadly diseases.

This sucks, so to the Americans reading: Do something. Something besides hate on brown people, okay?


Charles said...


Thanks for loving brown people, Ash. We love you!

Oberon Osiris said...

I won't totally dissagree with your thoughts here (and really good blog, btw), but my theory is that this news really blew the news about TORTURE Memos out of the water. I think the flu news is a distraction for that. Around the world things are moving on with the idea that someone must be accountable for the torture. American Media has been directed to obscure and distract from that.

or just me?