SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– We are adjusting to the new normal of wearing face masks but one group says the added protective gear is causing increased anxiety for some. Questions surrounding discrimination against African Americans wearing masks have come up. One story getting a lot of attention: a state representative who was stopped by police in Chicago.
Representative Kam Buckner said his Sunday run for essentials took an unpleasant turn when a police officer asked to see his I.D. because he was wearing a face mask.
In a series of tweets, Buckner said he asked the officer why he was approached. The officer reportedly told him: “I couldn’t see your face man, you looked like you were up to something.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker reacted from the podium Tuesday saying, “I’m saddened by it. I read the tweets and truly, I think this is happening and it’s something that we are looking into. We obviously believe that there is discriminatory behavior taking place here.”
Buckner is not alone. Last month, two black men said they were followed by police while wearing mask at a grocery store near the Illinois-Missouri border.
Leaders of police around the state said they don’t know if this is happening everywhere.
“You know it’s always disappointing to hear that people might feel like they’re profiled,” said Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director of the Illinois Chiefs of Police. “My next reaction was I haven’t heard about anything like that in your viewing area, so I’m not sure what else to say.”
Illinois NAACP President Teresa Haley who is based in Springfield said this is happening on our backyard too. “I had a person tell me they went to the gas station a male and a female. Both said that they felt like they were criminals because they had on their masks just simply trying to be safe. They were treated differently and we don’t want more people to be pulled over, or to be stereotyped or to be arrested or harassed because they are black and they are wearing a masks,” Haley said.
The state’s chapter of the NAACP is hosting a discussion surrounding black men and COVID-19 this Saturday at 10 a.m. on Facebook and Zoom.
Governor Pritzker announced a new way to report mask-related discrimination.
If you see it happening, email the state’s Department of Human Rights: firstname.lastname@example.org.