Posted on May 23, 2020

Public Health Officials in Ohio Apologize for Asking Minorities to Avoid ‘Gang Symbolism’ on Face Masks

Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, May 22, 2020

Public health officials in an Ohio’s most populous county are apologizing for telling African-Americans and communities of color to avoid wearing face masks that elicit stereotypes or masks with colors associated with “gang symbolism.”

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation on April 3 for people to wear face coverings in public, Franklin County Public Health issued guidance for communities of color who have expressed reservations about wearing face coverings in public.

On Wednesday, Franklin County Public Health tweeted an apology, saying “some of the language used came across as offensive and blaming the victims.”

The document titled, “COVID-19 General Guidance on Wearing Face Mask for African Americans and Communities of Color,” outlined recommendations that include the following: “Avoid fabrics that elicit deeply held stereotypes” and gives the examples of bandanas, skull prints and horror prints. “When utilizing a homemade mask, avoid bandanas that are red or blue, as these are typically associated with gang symbolism.”

Additionally the department said “it is not recommended to wear a scarf just simply tied around the head as this can indicate unsavory behavior, although not intended.”