Lincoln County, Oregon, has walked back its face mask exception for people of color, which was ordered to help prevent harassment and racial profiling, The Oregonian reports.

What’s happened?

  • The Oregon county originally said it would not force people of color to wear face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic over worries about racial profiling.
  • Lincoln County — which has a population of about 90% white residents, according to CNN — said it feared people harass and racially profile people of color if they wore masks.

What’s new?

  • But on Thursday, the county rescinded the policy after the attempt led to racist comments and harassment because of the national attention
  • “We are shocked and appalled at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exception. The expressions of racism regarding the exception has created a ripple of fear throughout our communities of color. The very policy meant to protect them is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment.”
  • The county said local people sent hurtful emails about the exempton, which was meant to protect others.
  • “We would encourage you to think less about the possibility of your rights being violated and think instead of the heightened feelings of risk that people of color in your neighborhoods daily endure.”

Elsewhere in Oregon

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Multnomah County told CBS affiliate KOIN that there is not an exemption there for people of color. But there could be racial profiling because of the masks.

  • The county said (via KOIN): “Violence and discrimination are a daily experience for people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color. Racism and racist reactions to Black, Indigenous, and people of color wearing face coverings is a reality. And yet we know face coverings can help people stay healthy and save lives. Multnomah County does not tolerate discrimination or violence toward individuals because of their race, ethnicity or identity.”
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