I would like to begin by correcting what you are more than likely confused about. The title if this post is “I’m not going to wear this mask anymore” is referring to a specific mask. I am not referring to wearing masks in general. Wearing a mask is such a minor inconvenience and it is so greatly beneficial that I have no interest in not taking the minuscule trouble of putting on a mask; despite the amount of complaining I hear from many. I am most certainly not suggesting that I am looking to defy the common sense “regulation” of wearing masks in public or in close social settings. The name of this post is, “I’m not going to wear THIS mask anymore!” This mask is a mask that has the message written on it saying, “I can’t breath”.
As a force of habit, I have a tendency to try and push people beyond their comfort zones. Comfort is a luxury for many, and I feel that growth within yourself will not exist without being uncomfortable. I have felt anguish toward the struggle for fairness and the culpability of which my life as a heterosexual white male oppresses. My discomfort with living in my own skin has attempted to resolve that conflict by giving of what I can, being selfless, and standing up for fairness to everyone. My discomfort cannot compare to the continual pressures that survive and prosper on people of which the message on my mask was intended.
I would guess that most adults and many children have felt times of high anxiety. These times of high anxiety are seen with symptoms such as increased heart rate, flushed skin (especially in the face), sobbing dry tears, sobbing wet tears, the feeling of hopelessness, the thought that “it would just be so much easier if I just “gave up”, having time where you lack energy and/or ambition, and most commonly having a lack of ability to breath. If you as a white person have felt anxiety, reflect upon that feeling, now multiply that by extending that feeling throughout your day, week, month, and year and life as a semblance of what many/most black and brown people feel as prisoners within their lives. The feeling of continual distress where there is no view of a way out from under the pressure that is enveloping your world. The anxiety or fear that someone who has sworn to “serve and protect” is threatened by the color of your skin before they evaluate the value of your intention or action; add to this strain, the proof that your concern is accurate in an alarming level of instances. The anxiety living in this type of society has proven a cause of black and brown people having difficulties breathing. It is this message that I understood and wanted to communicate with “this” mask.
“This” mask was intended to show support and solidarity to all who suffer from anxiety and having a difficult time breathing. Furthermore, “this” message of “I can’t breathe,” first came into awareness when Eric Garner was murdered by the NYC police for selling untaxed cigarettes. The murder of George Floyd shares the same essence of “this” message, a black man who couldn’t breathe. Black and brown women hold similar difficulties in gaining breath as the pressures of their world often require them to take on more responsibilities than reasonable. This is my understanding and the origin of why I chose to wear “this” mask. After all if you know me, or even if you have been reading my blog you understand that I am a the type of person who would absolutely sarcastically wear “this” mask to hyperbolize the irony, even though the mask does little to restrict breathing.
One person who I have come across seemed to “this” message. I was walking on a sidewalk in my town when a car was backing out into the road. There were several cars coming in both directions, and as I comprehend it is difficult and stressful for many to drive in reverse, especially if pulling out onto a road with traffic. I waved the driver out of their driveway when the traffic was clear. In the car with the windows up, were two women. The passenger waved to me as a way to say “thank you”. She did a quick double-take, then pointed at my face, and with a sincere smile, she nodded and gave me a double thumbs-up; I think she “got it”. I put my hands together in front of me, bowed slightly, and mouthed “thank you.” Other people who have commented have said, “I like your mask, it’s funny” or as a 20’s something girl said to me in the checkout line at a local grocery store just as she was handing my receipt, “I love your mask,” then pointing to her own mask, “I can’t breathe either. It’s so annoying!” Now, as much as I enjoy and feel it is my responsibility to make people uncomfortable when their thoughts or actions need to be called to task and addressed, I have a hard time describing their misunderstanding and their ignorance of my intent.
I cannot fault them for thinking that I am wearing “this” mask as an ironic statement. I do sincerely hope that they are not ignorant of the fact that, like Black Lives Matter, “I Can’t Breathe” is a movement that is urging the people of this country to wake themselves out of their “comfortable” sleep and hold our leaders, lawmakers, and “protectors” responsible for their blatant dereliction of duty; their duty is that of service to the population, not of themselves. The people too, need to be awakened and aware that their actions and successes are on the shoulders of a racist history that plays out still today; but I digress. I began wearing “this” mask with the intent to make people feel uncomfortable about their role in the systemic racism that exists in the world. Instead, people seem to feel delighted that they have a “comrade in arms” who is being ironic because we are all being forced to be thoughtful, considerate, and caring for others with the microscopic tribulation of wearing a mask.
I have reconsidered as I write this post. People’s ignorance may stem from the unawareness of the intent of my message. It is easy for anyone to only look at things with one perspective or point of view, their own; I too have been guilty of this. Is there anything that I can do to at least make them think twice, if not feel uncomfortable? If someone says, “cool mask, that’s funny,” or some derivative, I will respond, “BLM.” But what if they don’t know what that means…