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Why I don’t feel safe wearing a face mask

Why I don’t feel safe wearing a face mask

I’m a Black man living in this world. I want to stay alive, but I also want to stay alive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a 180-degree turn last week and is now recommending that people wear face masks in public. The guidelines say that medical grade masks should be reserved for health professionals, who are facing a shortage of supplies, and suggest that Americans use T-shirts, scarves, handkerchiefs, or any other spare fabric to make homemade masks to cover their noses and mouths.

On Saturday I thought about the errands I need to make this week, including a trip to the grocery store. I thought I could use one of my old bandanas as a mask. But then my voice of self-protection reminded me that I, a Black man, cannot walk into a store with a bandana covering the greater part of my face if I also expect to walk out of that store. The situation isn’t safe and could lead to unintended attention, and ultimately a life-or-death situation for me. For me, the fear of being mistaken for an armed robber or assailant is greater than the fear of contracting COVID-19.

These are the fears that Black Americans have to constantly face. Where we can go, how we can show up, what we can wear, what we can say — it never ends. The world is upside down right now with the coronavirus pandemic, and we are living in a dystopian nightmare come to life. Still, we are living in an America where history dictates that, even in the most absurd times, hatred and bigotry continue to reign. We are still judged, convicted, and sentenced by race, by gender, sexual orientation, and class.

Article by Aaron Thomas that appeared in the Boston Globe earlier this week

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