The OpEd Project


By Dynasty Williams, Lindblom
The OpEd Project

When it comes to Ebola jokes, I don’t believe in telling them because they spread like the disease they are: incorrect rumors targeting an ignorant audience all too willing to believe.

Moreover, Ebola jokes are part of a double standard: We can tease about Ebola because it’s primarily affecting African countries, but the minute someone makes a cancer joke, it’s extremely offensive.

By now, you’ve probably heard and seen these jokes: “When Ebola spreads to your city and your friend starts coughing” with Kermit the Frog looking alarmed. Or the meme of SpongeBob and Squidward with a brick wall between them: “When your homie has Ebola, but you still want to chill.” These jokes and pictures spread the wrong message. Still, they can be found all over the Internet, creating the impression that you can contract the disease just by talking to someone.

Sure, humor is a way to raise awareness on important topics. We often see political cartoons that use humor to provide insight on important issues facing our country, such as national debt or proposed laws. Other times, humor is a way to cope with feelings of anguish or distress. So while all the jokes about Ebola seem inappropriate and rather offensive, they may be an outlet for deeper worries or fears.

I also understand the urge to make sick people laugh to take their minds off their circumstances—I get that 100 percent. I even do it sometimes. But I would never make someone else’s pain and suffering the punch line so I could get a few chuckles.

I recently read about Ibrahim Tounkara, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania who was taunted by a rival soccer team because he’s originally from Guinea, and everybody was associating him with Ebola. When I saw that, I almost wanted to cry because it’s so upsetting that people were actually mean to this kid because of his nationality.

When it comes to Ebola jokes, just be considerate of people’s feelings. As we’re finding out more about the disease, there are still so many unknowns. We have no idea how serious it could be in the next couple of months.


Erin Nwachukwu, a Lindblom junior, contributed to this piece. Nwachukwu and Dynasty Williams, also a Lindblom junior, are both participants in Youth Narrating Our World (YNOW), a program of The OpEd Project.

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