Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Mask That Reveals

When the national conversation began to turn to the advisability of wearing masks in public in order to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus, it wasn’t greeted with enthusiasm by everyone. 

Black men fear homemade coronavirus masks could exacerbate racial profiling    - - NBC News

For Black Men, Fear That Masks Will Invite Racial Profiling  - - New York Times 

Yesterday Governor Hogan announced that he is ordering masks to be worn in public places such as retail stores and public transit, along with other requirements to support social distancing and heightened sanitary practices in places of business. From eveything that we know about spread of the virus, this is a sound decision.

From everything we know about institutionalized racism in this country, it will also have unintended consequences.

On April 4th, at the LA Mart in Oakland Mills, a Muslim man was (allegedly) tasered and restrained by a security guard because he would not remove his face mask in the store. According to the story the man in question is a health care worker who comes in contact with Covid-19 patients. 

What possible reason could the security guard have had to require someone to remove a mask as a requirement for shopping in the store? Is it even remotely likely that someone would be hiding a weapon under a face mask? 

Or is it more likely that the guard thought that this man “looked suspicious” and wanted his face to be recorded by store cameras as he shopped? It seems highly unlikely that he wanted a customer to remove a mask in order to provide him with a more enthusiastic welcome. I certainly hope that the Howard County police investigate this incident and that they share the results with the public.

Some time ago, the LA Mart had already created a feeling of unease in the Oakland Mills Community by posting “no hoodie” signs at the door. It may be that ownership and management need some serious intervention on how to support safety in their establishment without compromising the civil rights of their patrons.

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