So, I poisoned my mind last night, reading stuff on Twitter about how a county out here in Oregon has mandatory mask wearing, except if you’re a person of color.
There are a lot of folks with their bits in various types of twists over this, but I may as well chime in as someone who is physically a county or so over from this place with a bit of mind meal.
Hi again. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I am a person of color, if we must use a category. For this conversation, we’ll use the category, because it’s an integral component to understanding this.
For folks like myself, masks cause a level of worry: depending on the material, the color, the pattern, the way we wear it, among a number of myriad elements and uncontrollable provocation steps outside of our immediate sphere of influence, a mask can represent a clear and present danger.
As example, I would NEVER wear a bandana tied over my face, no matter how much you attempted to convince me. Why? I fear the folks who would immediately jump to the conclusion that I am about to commit
some any type of crime. It’s more likely that someone would just start off being verbally hostile. I also fear the types of folks who attack first, question eventually in situations like this, because that’s instant escalation.
I’m more likely to just stay home, to hopefully minimize my potential exposure to things like this, because it is, relatively speaking, the safer choice. It’s no absolute guarantee of safety, and I only have to Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor, to illustrate one recent event that can explain the fear.
But, I do have to leave the house now and again. I need groceries, medicines, and the occasional check-in with work so they know I’m still breathing, hungering, and keep me on the payroll.
When I leave the house, as such, I wear a face mask that clearly looks like a face mask, but isn’t just a solid, plain color. I have a series of masks that are either whimsical in nature, such as a large set of teeth with a piece of spinach stuck in them or a blushing cat face mask, or have a distinct appearance, like my grumpy bear mask, or are very graphical in their designs, such as an exit sign mask based on a sign from Tiny Speck’s Glitch.
All of these masks elicit positive responses from folks around me, which is a desired trait in a mask, though it may seem strange. If people are positively interacting with me, talking with me for a minute or two, complimenting my mask… I have a perception of lowered localized threat. People, while they can’t see my resting bitch face, are suitably disarmed because they’ve spoken with me. I’m no longer some potential burden on the system, a possible attacker bent on damage or destruction. I’m just a person sitting here, checking email and waiting to pick up my heart monitor, or waiting for the next paratransit bus home.
That said, I find Lincoln County, Oregon’s approach, removing the mandatory obligation to wear a mask sad, but understandable. While I may have found a solution that, at least for now, works for me, there are real and valid fears at play from other folks who share my skin tone range, and I cannot fault them one bit for not wanting to risk their existence for a face mask.
As before, be safe in what you do, when you do it. Wash your hands with genuine soap and water, and have a glass of water afterwards. You’re dehydrated.