While the country is experiencing a shortage in face masks, the Center for Disease Control recommends that people wear homemade face mask. But many people of color have reservations about going outside with bandanas, or other homemade masks wrapped around their faces.
One person exercising caution in following the suggestion of the CDE is Trevon Logan, economics professor at Ohio State University.
“We have a lot of examples of the presumed criminality of black men in general,” Logan said to 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 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
Hospital administrators around the country are seeking government help to secure more masks and other personal equipment. With many out of work, there is an untold number of poverty-stricken families who simply can’t afford to buy masks.
“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,” Logan said.
Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem. It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Wearing homemade masks during the COVID-19 pandemic could easily expose blacks to more racial profiling.
“This is in the larger context of black men fitting the description of a suspect who has a hood on, who has a face covering on,” Logan said. “It looks like almost every criminal sketch of any garden-variety black suspect.”
Gang affiliation is also a serious issue in large cities such as New York City, L.A., Chicago, among others. With this, there’s a great possibility that wearing bandanas for masks could expose men and women to violence from gang members as well as police.
Cyntoria Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University told CNN that bandanas are commonly associated with gang affiliation or part their respective uniforms, including a bandana tied around the forehead similar to a sweatband.
“People of color have to make conscious decisions every day about the way they show up in the world and are perceived by others, especially the police,” Johnson said.