Worldwide we have been told to wear our masks to keep us safe. Safe from Covid19! It’s the law that we must wear a mask once we’re outside our homes for our safety as well as others.
This isn’t new to black and brown people though. We always wear our masks once we step outside of safety, not comfort, but the safety of our spaces.
The mask we wear is to keep us safe from racist attacks, racially motivated insults, disparaging remarks and erroneous assumptions based on the colour of our skin.
When we are in white spaces, our mask hides the anger and hurt we feel at being treated as if there is something wrong with having that bit more melanin.
We hide our tears behind our masks when we are told that we are lazy or corrupt even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
We smile to mask the hurt when we are told, “you’re not like them,” by white people because “them” is often our family, friends and neighbours.
The mask is used to shield our anger and frustration at white peoples gall of comparing this lockdown during Covid19 to Apartheid, even though there were no lives lost and none of them was oppressed and violently evicted from their homes to make a way for us to reside there. Instead, some of them are crying at being unable to move about freely for the last 53 days. How about they recall our lockdown for the past 16 790 days?
Masks on black and brown people who move about in white spaces are adaptable. We can switch from the black side to the white side to ease white fears and to indicate to them that we are the same. That we have similar wants, needs, and ambitions and have no desire as they did to murder or oppress them.
Our mask hides our passion that we can’t express freely once we are outside the safety of our homes because we are cognisant of allaying their unfounded bias towards us.
Still, our masks hide the frustration within us because we have learned from a young age to comfort white people when they’re afraid of our black skins, earn less than white people, live in worse homes that their forefathers placed us in, insults about our body and hair and about the way we look.
Are they teaching their children what they are preaching?
Our masks hide the magicians we have to be for “white’s” sake.
Black people don’t need to be told to wear masks because we always wear masks, the only difference is that during this pandemic our masks have become visible.