News & Politics

Some Black People Won't Wear Facemasks Because it Makes Them Look Like a Criminal

A worker wearing a face mask sprays disinfectant along a path in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. China's death toll from a new viral disease that is causing global concern rose by 25 to at least 106 on Tuesday as the United States and other governments prepared to fly their citizens out of the locked-down city at center of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Arek Rataj)

Facemasks have become something of a fashion statement with many people wearing mouth coverings with attractive designs or splashy colors.

But for some black Americans, there’s a racial component of mask-wearing, so they are choosing not to protect themselves and others from becoming infected with a serious disease.

Mercury News:

But Trevor Logan, an economics professor at Ohio State University, will not be following this guidance.

“We have a lot of examples of the presumed criminality of black men in general,” Logan, who is black, told CNN. “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.”

I have yet to see anyone — white or black — rob a bank wearing a surgical-type mask. And if everyone is wearing a mask, you have to be extremely paranoid — and stupid — to believe a mask worn by anyone of any color would stand out and be threatening.

Logan is not alone in his concerns. On social media and in interviews with CNN, a number of people of color — activists, academics and ordinary Americans — expressed fears that homemade masks could exacerbate racial profiling and place blacks and Latinos in danger.

“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.

Well, we want to “stay alive” too so put a surgical mask on and stop trying to use a pandemic to advance your racial views.

Should the CDC have taken this sensitivity into account when posting their guidelines?

But this nuance was absent on Friday when the CDC instructed people to wear “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” The federal guidance also included a video of US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams showing how to turn a bandana, scarf or old T-shirt into a mask.

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.”

So the CDC should have made 2 videos — or 4,5, or 50? One for the overwhelming majority of white and black people on how to wear a mask and several dozen other videos to tell other kinds of people the alternatives? How about a video for gangbangers, or Muslims, or Asians? Don’t they deserve their own videos too?

If everyone is wearing a mask, no one stands out, no one looks “threatening,” or menacing. We can understand the fear, but the desire to protect others must override any paranoia about not wearing something to cover your mouth.