The CDC has now revised its advisories to have folks wear masks or other face coverings outdoors.
Medical grade masks are in short supply, so people are being told to make their own or use scarves or bandanas.
But when you're not a White person, that opens up an entirely new can of worms that most of us may not have considered.
Two Black men posted a video from a Wood River, Illinois Walmart showing a white police officer trailing them through the store, after telling them not to wear masks.
The men were clearly wearing medical style masks.
Coronavirus in woodriver Illinois www.youtube.com
The men stated:
"We're being asked to leave for being safe."
User Aaron Thomas continued this conversation on Twitter—noting how both wearing and not wearing a mask threatened his life as a Black man.
I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something else that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to… https://t.co/Jd6fPpZ4HK— Aaron Thomas (@Aaron Thomas) 1586022234.0
There is still the nuance of race that dictates our lives and the way we move through spaces, even in these turbulent times.— Aaron Thomas (@Aaron Thomas) 1586022234.0
So until I get a proper and official face mask ima have to run the grocery store like it’s 1993 and I’m on Supermarket Sweep 🤷🏾♂️— Aaron Thomas (@Aaron Thomas) 1586022234.0
With increased police presence in some places—such as New York city—enforcing social distancing, this becomes all too real of a threat.
@Aaron_TheThomas After hearing this, I hope every single white person wears a mask - so we achieve 80% masking and… https://t.co/gUZ3yCrkGc— Le Ah (@Le Ah) 1586045317.0
@Aaron_TheThomas I was thinking how much furor there has been over Muslim women wearing niqab, supposedly because they can't be identified.— Jane! is reading a book (@Jane! is reading a book) 1586043819.0
@Aaron_TheThomas @Erik_Rogers_ Being a middle-aged, pasty white guy, I never thought of that. I'm truly sorry that… https://t.co/iioWHNMlkJ— Jake Stevens (@Jake Stevens) 1586041415.0
@Aaron_TheThomas @TLynnMichaels My son said this today, he was wearing his baclava to the store and said, mom do yo… https://t.co/oy3OJ0AX0J— MON!C@ (@MON!C@) 1586040304.0
There is a shortage of N95 masks, prompting the guidance for masks from the CDC to be extended to be any piece of fabric that covers the face.
However, this complicates the problem further.
People of color are routinely criticized at best and attacked at worst for wearing face coverings, even if they coverings are religious in nature.
@Aaron_TheThomas Dr Oz going to get people shot lol https://t.co/CTg92lMHuf— Phil 🌱 (@Phil 🌱) 1586040988.0
@Aaron_TheThomas I understand. Everything is too hard on us. Nobody should be in impossible situations just trying… https://t.co/CBYI150ZXk— andré m. carrington, Ph.D. (@andré m. carrington, Ph.D.) 1586027308.0
@Aaron_TheThomas I wore a nursing mask w a hat on and still got profiled— koala boy (@koala boy) 1586033096.0
@Aaron_TheThomas @NoTotally And just like that...you gave a Ted Talk. Taught a lot of folks what their privilege l… https://t.co/Qy4Hfh6Ax6— Kimchi And Collard Greens (@Kimchi And Collard Greens) 1586044593.0
@Aaron_TheThomas @marvin_knowles I tried so hard to get my daughter to wear a handkerchief at least, she said “mom,… https://t.co/YCpcBoJ0DP— Tricia Foster (@Tricia Foster) 1586044291.0
Thomas expanded on his thoughts in an opinion piece for the Boston Globe titled:
"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."
There is no data yet on police response to the use of masks, aside from the incident in Illinois.
Hopefully people will spread Thomas' message. People need to come together to tackle this pandemic.
That support needs to include making sure the protections available to some are available to all.
The book White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son is available here.