The Politics of Face Masks

When it looked like we were going to need to wear face masks whenever we went out, I quickly went online and ordered some basic black face masks for my husband and I to use. They just arrived 3 weeks after I placed my order but in between placing the order and the black masks shipping I started to worry. What if my husband, a wonderfully intelligent, handsome and funny Black man was mistaken for a criminal and shot while wearing a black face mask.

I actually thought that.

It was the kind of thought that punched me in the gut and made me immediately search for face masks for him that were so distinct you knew it was a face mask for protection in a pandemic. I settled on these masks from JCRT, a menswear company.

Image via JCRT’s website.

They are colorful and bold and won’t be seen as menacing, at least that’s my hope. But when Black men are seen as menacing no matter what they wear, say or do, how can I possibly feel okay with my husband being out in public in a mask? I’m not exaggerating when just this week video footage surfaced of Ahmaud Arbery being shot while going for a run. I won’t even touch on the video footage being circulated on social media (why do videos of Black people being murdered seem to be appropriate to post online? ) or the fact that if this was two armed Black men who shot a White jogger they would’ve already been in jail. What I am touching on is that it is 2020 and lynchings seem to be on the rise.

There are too many tweets of people telling their stories of how they were stopped by the police for no reason at all. Stories of White people being given masks for social distancing while Black people are harassed, beaten and arrested for not wearing them, in the same city. This is exhausting. This constant fear, stress, anxiety…this weight is heavy and unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be lifting any time soon.

Published by Professor DWJ

I teach Social and Internet Marketing at Howard University in Washington, DC.

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