Oregon’s Lincoln County has created an exception for non-white residents in a new compulsory face mask order, citing concerns over racial profiling, but puzzled observers have deemed the move discriminatory, if not illegal.
The county’s public health directive mandates that “all individuals” in Lincoln “shall wear face coverings” in all public settings, including outdoor areas where proper social distancing is impossible. However, in addition to people with certain disabilities and children under 12 years old, the new order exempts “people of color who have heightened concern about racial profiling and harassment,” creating a clear racial distinction in the rules.
The order has prompted an outpouring of criticism and confusion, with netizens baffled that such a blatantly discriminatory policy could pass muster in 2020, some even labeling it outright racist.
What the hell is even happening?One rule for white people, another for everyone else? How is this even allowed?https://t.co/msNyfH68nn
— Sydney Watson (@SydneyLWatson) June 23, 2020
Example of the horseshoe theory of racism where you might reasonably confuse a supposedly anti-racist policy with a hypothetical pro-racist one. https://t.co/o7rEsDIWgf
— James Miller (@JimDMiller) June 23, 2020
The legality of the new order also became a hot topic, as many argued the rule would never stand up in a courtroom.
“Get arrested, someone!!! This is a lay-up civil rights case,” one netizen urged, while another asked, “How the hell is this legal?”
Time to file a discrimination lawsuit. This OR county needs to be defunded and all the racists named and shamed and canceled. https://t.co/p3ZmbdJ9vh
— A Chavez (@Wokeness007) June 23, 2020
Some critics saw more sinister forces at work, musing that orders mandating face masks – whose effectiveness are still a matter of dispute among experts – are a “power grab,” having more to do with politics than public health. Similar concerns over-politicized health advice were raised amid widespread protests inspired by the police killing of George Floyd in late May, in which many public health experts outwardly encouraged demonstrations, despite previously warning that all mass gatherings – including protests over Covid-19 lockdown measures – posed a significant risk.
Further proof that masks are useless and only a sick power grab by the tyrants we’ve given an ounce of power to. Consistently blown away. “Oregon county issues face mask order that exempts non-white people” https://t.co/2JGhKBDhmo via @nypost
— Tracy Beanz (@tracybeanz) June 23, 2020
Just more proof that this isn’t about your health 🤷🏻♀️Oregon county issues face mask order that exempts non-white people https://t.co/MJw40naM5F
— ⋇ Petite Nicoco ⋇ (@PetiteNicoco) June 23, 2020
Many of the same experts have also cautioned that black and Latino communities are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, making Lincoln County’s new face mask exemption all the more confounding.
Black people are unaffected by the coronavirus and no longer have to wear masks or take safety precautions. Only white people have to mask up. https://t.co/IUaVlwrRat
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 23, 2020
Is Oregon county WANTING people of color TO get the virus?? Oregon county issues face mask order that exempts non-white people https://t.co/Z0n7D0tOnO
— KIMBERLY🎭 (@TheRaytedex) June 23, 2020
Some activists have raised concerns that face masks do, in fact, put certain communities at risk, however. According to ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, compulsory mask rules put people of color in a “lose-lose situation” with potentially “life-threatening consequences.”
“Not wearing a protective bandana goes against CDC recommendations and increases the risk of contracting Covid-19, but wearing one could mean putting their lives at risk of getting shot or killed because of racially-biased targeting,” Moore argued.