Some people also see Duncan’s case as evidence that the U.S. doesn’t want West Africans to seek treatment in the United States. “It was a racist approach in a larger sense,” explains Franklin Wesseh, who describes himself to me as an opposition party member and writer. He’s referring to the slow response by the Dallas hospital that initially sent Duncan home despite a fever and weakness.
“I personally think [Duncan] could have been saved,” he says, sipping coffee after church on a Sunday afternoon. “He was given less attention. It was a way of probably discouraging Liberians who contracted the disease and want to go there.”
But while many Liberians I spoke to are frustrated by what they see as anti-African prejudice, some within the government urge less focus on race and more on fighting the epidemic.
“When we play the race card there will be problems,” says Nathaniel Toe, the superintendent for Maryland County, Liberia. His county, in the southeastern part of the country, doesn’t have an Ebola treatment center yet, and Toe is concerned that the U.S. could react to charges of racism by slowing down delivery of aid. One of the 18 U.S.-built treatment centers is planned for Maryland county.