Fixed it for you: Lincoln County drops racist mask exemption for POC
The region of 50,000 on a quiet part of the Oregon Coast became a target of anger after passing a directive that all residents wear masks indoors and outdoors — with a few exceptions, including for “people of color worried about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public.”
The directive, passed on June 16, went viral after a New York Post story with the headline: “Oregon county issues face mask order that exempts non-white people.”
By Wednesday, as the story spread and a small office in Newport was bombarded with thousands of angry emails and phone calls, the county revised the directive and eliminated the exception, saying that it “does more harm than good.”
Yes, blatantly racist policies tend to do that.
“We included the protections for those within our communities of color who historically, and often personally, found themselves the victims of harassment and violence,” the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and County Management team said in a statement Wednesday evening. “We are shocked and appealed at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exemption.”
Racism on the left brings out racism on the right. I’m not sure why this would be a surprise.
Progressive racism in a nutshell: They mean well—which does count for something—but it’s unhelpful in trying to achieve equality. This country has had centuries—centuries!—of making legal distinctions on the basis of race. It’s not a proud history.
In Trump’s America rightwing racist nut jobs have been emboldened. The answer in fighting them is not, generally speaking, more racism.
The exception, local officials said, was well-intentioned — a way for people worried about racial profiling to avoid that by having the option to not wear a mask, Lincoln County Commission spokesman Casey Miller.
“I thought it was mindfully crafted,” he said. “The focus of the directive was really on the health aspect.”
Actually, the heart of the problem is that the focus of the directive wasn’t really on the health aspect. If it had been, no one would have been excluded on the basis of their skin color. The idea that a hard-hit county is going to exempt minorities from health safety regulations in the middle of a pandemic boggles the mind.
The virus sure doesn’t discriminate—it’s infecting everyone—and if the burdens fall more on minorities (which they do) it’s certainly not because of their race or ethnicity. I almost can’t conceive that the county thought telling POC that “masks are optional for you” was determined to be more important than protecting them in the first place.
We all have the same rights and responsibilities under the law. Saying otherwise does no one, especially minorities, any favors.