Coronavirus help: Berkeley-based program to distribute medical masks to African American, Latino communities

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Many people in the African American community have expressed concerned that they will be unfairly targeted for wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, police in San Francisco want to reassure them that solely wearing a mask does not constitute suspicion of having committed a crime, especially during this time of shelter-in-place.

RELATED: New data shows coronavirus disproportionately impacts Black Americans, marginalized communities

People have been sharing cellphone video taken in a Walmart in Illinois showing two black men being escorted out of the store.

They say, it was for wearing a protective mask.
One of the men is heard saying, "He's following us right out the store, we're being asked to leave for being safe."

Today a mother in San Francisco posted on the Next Door site, "PLEASE don't be scared of Black people in masks."

It's what many mothers of African American youth are thinking.

"You should never call the police on anyone that is trying to protect themselves and once they go into any store or anything, we all should be looked at at the same rate, same thing, we should all be looked at the same," said Ashley Morris, a mother.

RELATED: Outcry over racial data grows as coronavirus slams black Americans

A week ago the CDC recommended wearing a cloth mask whenever a person leaves their home. Morris worries that some will be targeted because of the presumed criminality of black men in our society.
"It's unfortunate that everyone has to experience the same thing that my black male son is experiencing," she added.

W. Kamau Bell, is the host of United Shades of America. He had this to say from his home in the Bay Area:

"Really it's a fault of our government that they haven't stepped up and provided us with medical masks, but even with medical masks I'm sure there are many black people that are afraid that even if I'm covering my face they are going to be suspicious of us because again people are suspicious of black folks when we're doing nothing but enjoying ourselves or walking down the street."

Bell has now partnered with The Way Christina Center in Berkeley to raise money to provide medical masks for black and brown people across the country.

The project is called "Masks for the People," and you can find more information on their website here.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus crisis, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.