LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Starting May 11, Kentuckians are recommended to wear masks in public or face citations. Gov. Andy Beshear calls it another small sacrifice to keep others safe.
Audra Patrick, who is married to an African-American man and has two biracial children, said she feels like the idea of wearing a mask in public is more complicated than meets the eye.
“Saying a mask protects their health...I don't know that it protects their life,” said Patrick.
Patrick is concerned her husband and children might experience racial profiling when in public.
“There's a lot of racial profiling that happens without a mask on,” said Patrick. “It’s scary thinking about them being in a mask.”
When asked about the anxieties persons of color are experiencing regarding racial profiling and wearing masks in public, David Cozart pulled out three masks: a homemade mask, a bandana and a disposable medical mask.
“I have an assortment of masks for various occasions. Because I know each one of these send a different message of sorts,” said Cozart, who works with the Lexington Leadership Foundation. “It’s not a conversation that surprises me.”
Adrian Wallace, Vice-President of the Lexington-Fayette NAACP, said the conversation goes beyond masks. He said as you peel away the layers of the conversation, you can trace the prejudices that fuel people’s anxieties to societal inequity.
“It's about equity overall. This pandemic has so many different aspects from social, economic, environmental, and those applications disproportionately impact those who are already the most vulnerable people of color, and people in communities of concentrated poverty,” said Wallace.
Both Cozart and Wallace pointed to the same example when discussing the discrimination African-Americans face and where it stems from. Twenty-five-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Georgia while he was out jogging in February.
“It wasn't about a mask, but it had everything to do with racial profiling,” said Wallace. “When we start with this generation to teach them that we're all the same, that we should love one another, that's where the changes will come. But in the meantime yes we still have to teach our kids about precautions and about discrimination and about the harsh realities that exist in this country.”
Patrick said she’s disappointed she needs to have a conversation about racial profiling with her children in 2020, but she wants to continue raising awareness.
“I just hope this is a conversation starter for people who this isn't their reality,” said Patrick. “That they take the time to listen and really hear, not just do a quick judgment and understand that these are real people with real concerns.”