Oregon county exempts non-white people from a new face mask order

Non-white people in Lincoln County, Oregon, have been excluded from a new order demanding people must wear face coverings in public.

This measure was taken in a bid to prevent racial profiling.

Last week, health officials stated that residents must wear face coverings in public in case they may come within six feet distance of a person from another household. As the New York Post reports, people of color are exempted from the new rule. According to the officials, they have ‘heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment’ over wearing masks. In an official directive, they announced:

“No person shall intimidate or harass people who do not comply.”

As face masks requirements are becoming more common, activists claim the directives may put people of color in great danger. ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, told CNN:

“For many black people, deciding whether or not to wear a bandana in public to protect themselves and others from contracting coronavirus is a lose-lose situation that can result in life-threatening consequences either way.”

Moore acknowledges the fact that not wearing face coverings goes against the CDC requirements and increases the risk of contracting coronavirus. However, she believes that ‘wearing one[bandana] could mean putting their lives at risk of getting shot or killed because of racially-biased targeting’.

Furthermore, Professor of Economics at Ohio State University, Trevon Logan, claimed he will not be following the new guidance. The African-American professor said:

“We have a lot of examples of the presumed criminality of black men in general. And then we have the advice to go out in public in something that … can certainly be read as being criminal or nefarious, particularly when applied to black men.”

Prof. Logan added that the situation looks like people are told to be looking ‘dangerous‘ despite the intense racial stereotypes. 

Additionally, at the beginning of April, even before the wave of Black Lives Matter protests sparked, Aaron Thomas, an educator at Columbus, Ohio, tweeted:

“I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something else that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to the store because I am a Black man living in this world.”

The directive from June 16 states that people of color that have increased concerns about being in danger of harassment while wearing face coverings in public are not obligated to comply with the new order. Others that are exempted from the guidance are people with medical conditions that are aggravated by wearing a face covering, people with specific disabilities that prevent them from using masks, and children under the age of 12. However, children between the age of 2 and 12 are ‘encouraged to wear face coverings but not required to do so’.

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