All masks are not created equal.

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Opinion, Policy

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently recommended people should start wearing masks to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19 through airborne spread. 

This new recommendation, like all things fresh, spurred a lot of creative minds to start tinkering with how masks could be created and what could be used. There’s quite a few good ideas out there floating throughout social media and the internet, from sewing with different types of fabric to using scarves as a shield to protect from this infectious virus. However, there is one particular item gaining the most traction to use as a makeshift mask: the bandana.

Bandanas for some are simply a cloth meaning no harm, used for Saturday mornings to wrap your hair or head while digging in to do chores, rags to clean dirt off your car or simply a toy used to play dress up and act like one of your favorite movie heroes. Those uses are simply for the privileged. 

For the other half, a bandana means something more than just dress up. Bandanas are used to claim territories, the gang you represent, signals of who and what target to hit next, it’s a symbol of pride and violence. For the privileged, it can be used as a weapon against folks who they believe might be engaged in “suspicious activity,” especially for people of color.

Safety is vital right now with more people getting sick and deaths multiplying by the hundreds each day, but let’s not act that all safety is created equal, specifically make-shift masks. 

In a time where people of color are getting police called on them for having a barbecue in a public park, taking a nap at their own college study area or being killed while sitting in their own apartment, there should be extreme caution on how people of color should be instructed to keep safe. There’s no need for any more “breathing while colored” incidents, especially when all of us have something bigger than ourselves to all deal with.

Black and brown people are not afforded the same opportunities as white and white-passing people when it comes to certain liberties. A black boy couldn’t walk the streets peacefully at night with his hoodie up, what makes you think a person of color will be able to roam around with a colored bandana on without being chastised? 

This pandemic has caused a rise in unemployment. Over 10 million filed for unemployment over the past two weeks with no end in sight. Unfortunately, out of desperation, people will turn to crime causing crime rates to go up. This will lead to more stereotyping, unwarranted “barbecue becky” calls to the police, and divisiveness in a time where our country needs healing and unity. It’s no secret people of color are perceived as suspects at a disproportionately higher rate than others. Brown and black people wearing bandana masks, with an unfortunate rise in crime, is a recipe for failure. 

The FBI has already warned of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans due to the disgusting rhetoric being put forth by the guy currently occupying the White House and “news” networks like Fox News. A Texas man was arrested for trying to kill an Asian American family of three because he thought they were spreading COVID-19. This is not what America needs right now. 

Bandanas covering the faces of people of color could have a terrible unintended consequence. Minorities are profiled enough as it is already and are the most vulnerable population during this global pandemic, there’s no need to add another thing to the worry list, when right now things should be taken off so life can be lived a little easier. 

Let’s be smart and take a pragmatic approach about this. Stay safe, wear masks allowing you to see another day and avoid trouble because there’s no need for anyone to be dealing with more than what life is handing to us currently.

Odus Evbagharu is Chief of Staff for state Rep. Jon Rosenthal

Photo: Getty Images

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