EAST MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - Since the CDC recommended everyone wears face masks when out in public and Governor J.B. Pritzker is mandating Illinois residents wear them starting May 1st, we will begin to see them more frequently. However, for some communities, that causes anxiety. The Village of a Thousand Elders is creating a safety initiative called "Tip Your Mask" to help prevent confusion and racial biases.
Tip Your Mask" is in coordination with various police departments in Illinois. When you go into a store or building, you're now asked to "tip your mask" by lowering it slightly so the business owner can see your face.
"Tip Your Mask" is in coordination with various police departments in Illinois. When you go into a store or building, you're now asked to "tip your mask" by lowering it slightly so the business owner can see your face. After you tip, you should wash your hands or sanitize as soon as you can. Reverend Wonder Harris who founded the Village of A Thousand Elders explains, "if people were to commit a crime, they wouldn't tip the mask because they’d be caught on camera." He visited various local businesses in East Moline and said business owners' agreed that tipping masks would ease their minds to know a customer is just inside to shop, and not commit a crime.
Everyone is being asked to tip your mask, because as Pastor Harris says, "crime comes in all colors. You can't just say that just because they’re a particular color, they'll commit a crime. So it’s something all of us have to do. And It's not just using old standards and ideas and we can't have a peaceful society to do it that way." Reverend Donald William Johnson adds, "We really want to eliminate and dilute and stop any sort of confrontation. So if I tip my mask, then persons know I’m not out to do anything wrong. Because that’s the typical thing people think of with a mask."
Pastor Darryl Thompson understands why people of color may be hesitant to wear face masks, as he is one of them: "It’s really an adjustment for me. It brings anxiety and frustration because I know in my subconscious, in mind, and heart what it kind represents in our community." Thompson said he recommended his son only wear a mask once he's inside a business for fear of what others may think when they see a black man in a mask. Harris says it will take time to get used to, "once something is in your subconscious mind and it’s something you dealt with all your life, making that mental change is going to take time."
They all hope that face masks will eventually bring some unity. "Dr. King said he dreamed of a time when people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Perhaps the mask is forcing us now to judge character and conduct and not skin," shares Harris.
According to the World Health Organization, if you touch your mask you should use hand sanitizer or wash your hands as soon as possible.
The Village of a Thousand Elders say they worked with local health departments on the initiative to make sure it's safe.
Various police departments shared their support with the "Tip Your Mask" initiative:
East Moline Chief of Police Jeff Ramsey:
“Mr. Harris is a Pastor at one of our churches here in East Moline with whom we have great respect for and have a great relationship with. Pastor Harris and his partners were proactive in coming up with this idea and reached out to see what we were doing as a police department with the new normal of citizens wearing masks everywhere. Pastor Harris and his partners were advised we have taken steps to discuss these concerns with our officers and we continue to adapt to the constant changes with the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to promote the safety of our citizens and officers during this difficult time.”
Moline Chief of Police Darren Gault:
"The Moline Police Department recognizes that the culture shift of public mask use requires all of us to view this from a different lens. Some people, particularly those in our communities of color, are apprehensive about wearing a mask. What once may have been viewed as an attempt to conceal identity, now is a public health recommendation. This requires all of us to make adjustments in everyday situations. I am encouraged that our community leaders are looking to collaborate on ways to help adjust to a new normal. It is important that our community plays an active role in helping us all adjust to these new ways of living, interacting, doing business and supporting the economy. These are just some of the new challenges we will all face over the next several months. It probably won’t be the only conversations we have about how to deal with situations that we haven’t even thought of or prepared for yet."
Rock Island Chief of Police Jeff VenHuizen:
"We will continue to work with community leaders to address their concerns, while at the same time ensuring that our officers have received adequate guidance and training to address those concerns."
Silvis Chief of Police Mark VanKlaveren:
“We support healthy interactions between Law Enforcement and citizens. Any proactive messages that can have a positive effect on those interactions are welcomed. Our officers are informed and are constantly adapting to the environment around them.”