Dear members of the Mandel School community,
The CDC suggests the wearing of masks for the safety of those wearing the mask and those that they encounter. However, for some in our community, the decision goes beyond a basic health decision. For our Brown, Black and Asian sisters and brothers the decision can have life-threatening consequences.
Why is it difficult for communities of color to wear a mask?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been reports of people of Asian descent being singled out, berated and blamed for COVID-19. The institutional and structural racism faced by people with brown and black skin is now seen in the increased impact COVID-19 has in these communities. Yet, when the public sees a person of color wearing a mask, some see this as an act of defiance rather than a health precaution. Aaron Thomas of 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. I want to stay alive but I also want to stay alive."
People of Asian and Chinese descent have been “spit on, yelled at, attacked” (New York Times, 3/23/20) when wearing a protective mask. These experiences go back to early 2020. To quote Xinyuan Cui, a recent graduate of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and member of the Community Innovation Network at the Mandel School:
“I'm proud of my Chinese heritage, as are many in our community. People of Chinese and other Asian descent are not the virus. All of us have the right to wear a mask to protect ourselves as well as others. The violence, verbal abuse, profiling and discrimination that our community has endured must end. We don't want any of our Black, Brown and other Asian community members to suffer anymore.”
These communities are being further marginalized during the current pandemic. Our brothers and sisters are faced with a double burden as they have to decide to risk their own health and safety (by not wearing a mask in public) or to risk being seen by some as a threat when wearing a mask.
Our current situation begs these questions:
- How do we address the unintended consequences for some in our society?
- What do we do about the implicit bias which impacts well-meaning public health strategies?
As a school of social work, we are committed to acknowledging and addressing racism and inequities. We cannot sit idly by while members of our community are at increased levels of risk. We implore those in the community, law enforcement, security guards and bystanders to take time to think about what it is like for someone who is Brown, Black or Asian to face this decision on a daily basis. Please, as you go about your day, and you encounter those wearing masks, for whom this might have been a particularly difficult decision or those who have made the difficult decision to not wear a mask, stop and think before you act or react.
We are thankful, every day, for the courageous nurses, doctors, social workers and others who, despite the daily confrontation of racism, leave their homes to provide care, support and services to those in need. We see you, and we thank you. Let us use this time to build community and feel appreciation for each other.
We need to unite together to address COVID-19-related harassment and discrimination that is currently happening to our Brown, Black and Asian community members.
Adrianne M. Fletcher, PhD
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
Nancy Rolock, PhD
Henry L. Zucker Associate Professor of Social Work Practice
Associate Dean of Research and Training
Grover C. Gilmore, PhD
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Dean in Applied Social Sciences
华人和亚裔曾因为出于保护自己和他人的目的戴口罩时，被当众唾弃、被大声呵斥、被攻击（信息来源: New York Times, 3/23/20）。Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel应用社会科学学院的毕业生、Community Innovation Network工作人员崔馨元与我们分享：
Adrianne Fletcher, PhD
Nancy Rolock, PhD
Grover C. Gilmore, PhD
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel应用社会科学学院院长