Why blacks and Hispanics may fear wearing masks in public

Coronavirus

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Statistics are showing a disproportionate number of African Americans are getting sick and dying of coronavirus.

Still, some minorities say they don’t want to wear masks in public.

And here’s why.

Even though health officials say everyone should wear a mask, some blacks and Hispanics fear racial profiling and being seen as a criminal.

“Even though it’s very risky to go outside without any protection in a public area without covering eyes, nose, and mouth, it’s just as risky as a black person to go into a liquor store with your face completely covered like that,” said Huntsville resident Kundai Bajikikayi.

While Bajikikayi said she’s putting her health first, she still feels she needs to put others at ease when she wears a mask in public.

To wear or not to wear?

“We thought the right thing to do was show our face, so they knew we weren’t trying to rob the place or anything like that, and then put the bandanna back on top,” said Bajikikayi.

Just a few weeks ago, anyone walking into a store wearing a mask would be considered suspect. But now that everyone should wear one, racial bias can become even more real.

Police weigh in on the issue

“We’re glad that you brought that issue up,” said Huntsville Police Lieutenant Michael Johnson. “We understand that wearing these masks in the minority community may bring about some discomfort.”

Johnson said HPD officers are trained to overcome that bias when policing the city. That training is being used now more than ever.

Following orders

“So the governor’s saying that we all should wear masks through the health department. So we presume the police has this information and they’re going to stop profiling people, for example. So they’re not going to pull someone over just because they have a mask — which is the fear,” said community advocate Yalitza LaFontaine.

LaFontaine said it will take time to get over that fear and remove the bias.

Wear your mask

“Once you start seeing that they’re saying no it’s understandable, go head and wear a mask, we’re going to be more aware and not assume that everyone that’s wearing a mask is a criminal,” said LaFontaine.

LaFontaine, Bajikikayi and Johnson agree that it’s important to keep pushing the mask message.

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