Despite recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control about wearing face masks to help control the spread of the coronavirus, some black academics and activists say they’ll forego the advice.
The reason, according to a report at CNN.com, is fear of racial profiling.
The wearing of bandanas, Georgia State University’s Cyntoria Johnson says, is associated with gang affiliation, most notoriously the Bloods and Crips in California. The Los Angeles Police Department even includes bandanas in its description of Hispanic gangs, she says: “a bandana tied around the forehead similar to a sweatband.”
Johnson noted blacks and other minorities have to make “conscious decisions” about their dress — take into consideration how they’ll be viewed, especially by law enforcement.
With that in mind, Ohio State professor Trevon Logan said he refuses to wear a face mask out in public: “We have a lot of examples of the presumed criminality of black men in general. And then we have the advice to go out in public in something that … can certainly be read as being criminal or nefarious, particularly when applied to black men.
“This (wearing a homemade mask) seems like a reasonable response unless you just sort of take American society out of it. When you can’t do that, you’re basically telling people to look dangerous given racial stereotypes that are out there.”
“I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something else that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to the store because I am a Black man living in this world,” tweeted Aaron Thomas, an educator in Columbus, Ohio. “I want to stay alive but I also want to stay alive.”
His tweet has more than 121,000 likes. …
I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something else that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to the store because I am a Black man living in this world. I want to stay alive but I also want to stay alive.
— Aaron Thomas (@Aaron_TheThomas) April 4, 2020
The CDC’s mask guidance is an example of heterogeneous effects, said Robynn Cox, an assistant professor in the University of Southern California’s Department of Social Change and Innovation.
“Just because something may work or be true for the mainstream (average), doesn’t mean that it will also be true, or that it will work the same way, for different groups,” Cox told CNN over email. “Clearly, there are additional costs that blacks must consider when choosing what protective gear they will wear.”
ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said the CDC mask suggestions “fail to capture this reality.”
“Not wearing a protective bandana goes against CDC recommendations and increases the risk of contracting Covid-19, but wearing one could mean putting their lives at risk of getting shot or killed because of racially-biased targeting,” she said.