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I was in the Jewel. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a grocery store. I like to refer to it as “the Jewels”. Hencefoth, I shall.
So, I was in “the Jewels” with my 13 year old Audra. It was time for their second vaccine. I received mine in April.
On our way into the store, a sign stated that masks were not required for vaccinated patrons. That meant I had the option to go sans mask. Maskless. In a store. For the first time since March, 2020.
At first, I kept wearing the mask. After Audra got their vaccine, I suddenly felt wild, reckless. I wanted to give going face-naked a try.
We stood in the clearance section of the store. As I contemplated whether to buy Amy’s no chicken noodle soup at 50% off, I removed my mask. The soup cans cost $3.49 which means if they weren’t discounted they would cost $7.
I’ve never paid $7 for a dang can of soup. I contemplated this without my face covered. By the time I decided not to buy the rich-person’s broth, I returned my mask to it’s rightful place.
“Put your mask back on,” Audra said at the same time that I was already doing it.
We laughed. That 5 seconds without a mask felt vulnerable. I couldn’t imagine moving through the store without it’s protection. I don’t mean protection from the virus. I mean protection from other peoples’ reactions.
I can’t anticipate what people might say or do based on them seeing my face without a mask. Sure, I don’t want their judgement. More importantly, I don’t want their possible aggression, bias or assumptions.
As a Black woman, I navigate the world unsure of how people will react to me every day. Will I trigger their bias, assumptions; even their wrath? Instead of a face with no mask, it is the color of my skin that leaves me vulnerable.
Whether you choose to continue wearing a mask or not, the opportunity to choose is a luxury and a privilege. Black people and folx from other marginalized groups don’t have that privilege or luxury when it comes to what sets them apart. And nothing distinguishes whether people we encounter are racist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist.
Empathy is a portal for understanding. I offer this for your consideration.
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