(Photo by AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that all Americans wear homemade face coverings in public to help slow the spread of coronavirus, and medical-grade masks should be reserved for healthcare workers due to supply shortage. People are suggested to make masks with T-shirts, scarves, handkerchiefs or any other fabric that could cover their noses and mouths.
This is not a perfect solution, but could even be a dangerous one for African Americans. Many people of color expressed fears that homemade masks could exacerbate racial profiling and place blacks and Latinos in danger.
“We have a lot of examples of the presumed criminality of black men in general,” Logan, a black economics professor at Ohio State University, said. “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 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. “For me, the fear of being mistaken for an armed robber or assailant is greater than the fear of contracting COVID-19.”
In the US, bandanas are often associated with gang affiliation and violence, according to Cyntoria Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University. The LAPD also describes the “uniform of Hispanic gangs” as including “a bandana tied around the forehead similar to a sweatband.”
Racial profiling by law enforcement in the US has been documented, and it is found that officers generally stopped blacks at higher rates than whites. In recent years, high-profile police shootings of black men have also raised fears of law enforcement among African Americans.
“For many black people, deciding whether or not to wear a bandana in public to protect themselves and others from contracting coronavirus is a lose-lose situation that can result in life-threatening consequences either way,” ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said. “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.”