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Black Men Face Cornelian Dilemma Regarding Face Masks

As more Americans are wearing face masks or scarves at the advice of infectious disease experts, some minorities, and in particular Black males, have expressed concern about facing negative reactions to doing so. Well before COVID-19, negative racial stereotypes lead some to perceive Black men as threatening and dangerous, often prompting racial profiling. In recent weeks, there have been a number of well-publicized incidents in which African American males wearing face masks have gotten negative pushback, ranging from rude comments to harassment by store security to police action like being handcuffed and detained.

This places many Americans and especially Black men in an impossible position. They must decide between endangering themselves and others with the virus by not wearing masks, on the one hand, and subjecting themselves to racial profiling and animosity by wearing masks, on the other. While experts are clear that everyone should wear a mask in public to be safe from COVID-19, these dangerous stereotypes and attitudes are causing legitimate concern among minority males about how others will react, whatever option they choose.