Black Folks In Illinois Shouldn’t Flirt With COVID-19 By ‘Tipping’ Their Masks

Post-Racial America

Effective today, Illinois residents over the age of two are required to wear a face mask in public when they can't keep six feet away from other people. Customers are expected to wear masks at all times inside stores. This is consistent with CDC guidelines. We're all for efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but we've also discussed how some black folks are nervous about police assuming they're criminals if they wear a mask. However, the local group Village of a Thousand Elders has a solution. In coordination with some Illinois police departments, the group is launching the “Tip Your Mask" initiative.

The initiative asks that people entering a store or building lower their masks slightly so that business owners can see their face. You're supposed to wash your hands afterward, but you've already touched your mask and probably your whole face with your grubby fingers. This is somehow all worth it to convince the guy selling you a hot dog that you're not going to stick him up.

Reverend Wonder Harris, founder of the Village of a Thousand Elders, claims that actual criminals wouldn't tip their masks because they'd risk getting caught on camera. Apparently, the tip of your nose and some of your upper lip can help conclusively identify perps.

Masks required in Illinois starting May 1

Harris suggests that everyone “tip their mask" because crime “comes in all colors." Kumbaya! Reverend Donald William Johnson confirms that the goal is for black people not to freak out white other people.

JOHNSON: We really want to eliminate and dilute and stop any sort of confrontation. So if I tip my mask, then persons know I'm not out to do anything wrong. Because that's the typical thing people think of with a mask.

Maybe now, during a global pandemic, the “typical thing" people should assume when they see someone with a mask is that they're trying not to spread or catch an infectious disease. Masks are no longer what you wear to rob a stagecoach. Even when everyone's allowed to freely leave the house again, we'll probably still wear masks for a while. You might not see someone's face fully exposed until after the second date.

I'll be waiting.

The Village of a Thousand Elders is one of those “personal responsibility" groups that believe with enough training and practice, black people can avoid getting shot because their hand looked like a gun with fingers. No matter what the Village of a Thousand Elders might say, this whole initiative is about making black people in masks seem less scary, but everyone, especially the police, should understand that COVID-19 is even scarier. Kamala Harris asked last month that federal law enforcement agencies provide anti-bias training and guidance to the police, and we'll always prefer that to enabling racial bias.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, 42 percent of Illinois's coronavirus deaths are black residents, who account for just 15 percent of the state's population. There are 52,918 confirmed cases in the state, and 36,512 of them are in Cook County, which is 26 percent Hispanic and 23 percent black. Similar to what's happening in Michigan, rural, conservative areas are frustrated over Gov. J.B. Pritzer's COVID-19 regulations, which they perceive as “motivated by Chicago's efforts to control the spread." Chicago is, believe it or not, still part of Illinois.

Black people in Illinois need to focus on their health, and CDC guidelines don't say anything about “tipping the mask." The police and business owners might just have to learn to trust us.

[Chicago Tribune / KWQC]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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