Right now, most of us are taking measures to protect ourselves and others from catching the Rona. There are some universally accepted preventative measures, such as not touching your face, leaving extra family members at home while shopping, washing your hands, social distancing and wearing facial protection. There are also some socially unacceptable behaviors, like hoarding all the damn toilet paper and paper towels within 100 miles in every direction. Looking at you – people in my area.
I won’t be getting into the efficacy of different types of masks or adding to the mounting number of “this is why tp hoarding is bad” think pieces, but rather looking at how even some of the preferred safety measures aren’t so “safe” for some and how there is privilege in not having to think about it.
I think we all know that surgical masks and N95 masks are in short supply, so many people are buying or making their own makeshift cloth masks. Cloth masks are nowhere near as effective, but they are better than nothing. And at least with cloth masks, most anything found in your home can be used, right? Sure.
But not everyone can walk around with a scarf or shirt or bandana covering their face and not be seen as a threat.
There’s a Tweet that’s been screenshot and is now going around FB that says “I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to the store because I am a Black man living in this world. I want to stay alive but I also want to stay alive.”
If you aren’t a Black or brown person and reading this shocked you, I’m not surprised. If you don’t quite get it, read it again or however many times it takes. If you just thought “omg, I never even considered this” and the weight of what this means is settling on you, you’re on the right track.
Can you imagine someone, in casual clothes, face half-covered in let’s say a red bandana walking into a business? Now imagine that they’re Black.
If that gives you “A Time To Kill” vibes, good. That’s kind of what I was going for.
Picture the clutched purses. The uneasiness of store workers and customers alike. The eyes that seem to follow them everywhere they go. The possible call to police made because of a “suspicious person,” even though masks adorn the faces of people every which way you turn. The maybe had a bad day or is just trigger happy cop/citizen.
Have you thought about the single mom, in need of groceries and with children who aren’t tiny anymore but are still too young to be left at home alone? Maybe she pulls up to the store and sits there for a while, anxiety bubbling to the top while she decides whether or not to take her children inside and risk exposure or leave them in the car for a few minutes? She knows that in normal times, she wouldn’t consider this – but these aren’t normal times. She thinks about how Black moms are more likely to have CPS called on them and subsequently more likely to have their children taken away. It might happen or it might not but it’s still something for her to think about, however fleeting.
Do you see how either of these could easily turn into another (potentially deadly) case of BPE (Black people existing?)
If you say no, well I’m just going to assume that you’re full of shit. Because the BBQ Beckys and corner store Carols of the world didn’t just up and disappear.
I’m not saying that these things will happen to every Black or brown person or that there aren’t places that are more minority friendly – but these things can, do and are happening. They are real, valid concerns that a lot of Black people have to contend with on top of everything else. Concerns, that other groups of people likely have the privilege of not having to worry about.
Society is in a weird place right now. There’s lots of uncertainty and we’re all trying to grab on to a little piece of normalcy. But for some, unfortunately, normalcy means having to worry about how you’ll be perceived and how that perception may impact how many tomorrows you get to see.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.