Together with the rising cases of swine flu in Hong Kong, another threat looms above Filipino domestic workers: that of racial profiling. This one can prove to be even more virulent than A(H1N1).
Our kababayans have not yet fully-recovered from getting tagged as 'Superbug' carriers a few months ago. Now here comes the HK government declaring that Filipino domestics – after one has been diagnosed with it together with three others who just arrived from the Philippines – are carriers of the dreaded A(H1N1) virus and has called for employers to restrict them in their days off and their mobility. What a lot of bull!
Alright, I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of the rapid spread of swine flu. Even the World Health Organization has declared it as an epidemic already and they are already stonewalled on its origin and how to effectively stop it from spreading. We do need to seriously take precautions and probably, foreign domestic workers are as concerned as most of us because their work is their family's bread and butter.
Still, why zoom in on Filipinos? To set the records straight, the first cases of swine flu in HK were not Filipinos and most of the recorded cases now are also not Filipinos; not even domestic workers to boot. So why are Americans, Australians, British and the whole dang HK population not given the same advice as a preventive measure?
In reality, foreign domestic workers are not as exposed to crowded places as the rest of the people in Hong Kong. They only have one day off in a week for chrissake! The only time they leave their employer's house for the rest of the week is either to go to the market or send and pick up their wards from school. They also do not have the capacity to travel outside of HK whenever they want to. If truth be told, who is really more prone to this epidemic?
Already, some people I know of have been warned by their employers against going to the places they frequent during their days off, were ordered to go out on a different day, or were commanded not to take a day off at all. They have already been uprooted from the Philippines and now they are again uprooted from their communities, friends, families and social practices – a whole way of life.
Public health is indeed the public's concern. But when it gets racist and discriminatory, it breeds a sickness to our humanity that is an epidemic of probably even greater proportion.