Georgia State Senator Nikema Williams Pressures Gov. Brian Kemp to Suspend Jim Crow-Era Mask Law

Illustration for article titled Georgia State Senator Nikema Williams Pressures Gov. Brian Kemp to Suspend Jim Crow-Era Mask Law
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Whether it’s being more likely to suffer from severe complications, being less able to work from home or being more at risk for losing a job, COVID-19 has had an inordinate effect on the black community. In Georgia, there is an effort to take racial profiling off the list of things to be concerned about while navigating a pandemic.


The Hill reports that efforts are underway to convince Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to suspend a law against masks that dates back to the Jim Crow era. Democratic state Senator Nikema Williams wrote a letter on April 10 that asked for the law to not be enforced for the duration of Georgia’s state of emergency. Given that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people wear cloth masks whenever outside the home, it’s pretty obvious what to do here.

From The Hill:

The 1951 law makes it a misdemeanor to wear a “mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer” either on public property or without permission on private property.

It’s insane that Jim Crow-era regulation is still having an effect in the modern day. The law was initially drafted to crack down on the Ku Klux Klan but since this is America, it has managed to be weaponized against black people.

Williams expressed concern that under the law, black people will be racially profiled for simply trying to protect themselves from the virus. This has already occurred in Illinois, where two black men were kicked out of a Walmart for not taking off their masks. “At a time when the Black community is overrepresented in COVID19 cases, we need to protect our communities and ensure that they will remain safe when trying to flatten the curve and save lives,” Williams writes in her letter.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms (D) has already directed Atlanta police to not enforce the law. Candice Broce, spokeswoman for the Governor, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “According to the CDC, wearing a mask in public may mitigate the spread of coronavirus. We are reviewing state law to ensure there are no unnecessary obstacles to following this guideline.”

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