Oregon County Requires White People To Wear Masks, Exempts ‘People Of Color’ Due To ‘Heightened Concerns About Racial Profiling’

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

A county in Oregon has an unusual exemption in an order requiring people to wear personal protective masks amid the ongoing coronavirus.

“Face coverings requirements herein do not replace the primary need for people to continue to practice social distancing (physically separated by a minimum of 6 feet), staying at home when ill, frequently washing hands with soap or sanitizer, and avoiding touching one’s face,” the order reads.

That part of the mandate is not unusual as many cities and counties across the country have implemented similar measures.

But, as Fox News reports, in Lincoln County, people of color are included on a list of people exempt from the rule.

The order reads (emphasis added):

The following individuals do not need to comply with this Directive:

  • Persons with health/medical conditions that preclude or are exacerbated by wearing a face covering.

  • Children under the age of 12. Children over the age of 2 but under the age of 12 are encouraged to wear face coverings but not required to do so.

  • Persons with disabilities that prevents them from using the face coverings as described in this directive. These persons must be reasonably accommodated to allow them access to goods and services.

  • People of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public.

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The health officials also cautioned against any physical confrontation with those who are not complying: “No person shall intimidate or harass people who do not comply.”

Responding to the order, ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, described the situation as a “lose-lose” for minorities.

“For many black people, deciding whether or not to wear a bandanna 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 said.

Trevon Logan, an economics professor at Ohio State University, elaborated (via Fox News): “This is in the larger context of black men fitting the description of a suspect who has a hood on, who has a face covering on. It looks like almost every criminal sketch of any garden-variety black suspect.”