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Why Won’t White People Wear Masks?

Y’all unhygienic

Indi Samarajiva
Jul 1 · 6 min read

After lockdown, I went to the supermarket for the first time in two months. Everyone was wearing masks… except for a few white people. This is Sri Lanka, we don’t even have many white people. But there they were, lips and noses out. People were glaring enough to disinfect their faces with rage, but they didn’t notice. They just didn’t care.

WTF is wrong with white people?

White people?

From YouGov. Note the outlier. That’s white.

Yes, white people.

Just look at this graph of masking in Asia-Pacific. Everyone is wearing masks… except for Australia. Who lives in Australia? White people.

This is global. The latest white privilege is poor public hygiene. Mask-wearing in majority-white nations is significantly lower than anywhere else, and white migrant workers (‘expats’) and tourists export this abroad.

The lack of western civilization

Let’s have a closer look at masking rates.

As you can see, it’s not that white people can’t wear masks. They’ll do it, just literally over their dead bodies.

Italy, Spain, and France began masking as 100,000 people died. The point, however, is to figure it out before people die. Because, you know, it’s a preventative measure.

The UK and Sweden still haven’t figured it out, but surprisingly the US is almost there. They're up there with the successful western nations (and global disasters) of Germany and Canada.

So why doesn’t halfway masking work?

The trouble is that close isn’t good enough. Masking is the closest we’ve got to herd immunity, and that only works if enough of the herd is doing it. If you’re below 85% masking (ie, near-universal) then there are still too many pockets where COVID-19 can spread. Worse, if masking is politicized, then those pockets are huge — there can be whole churches or indoor rallies without masks, forming super-spreader events.

Now, are masks alone enough to stop COVID-19? I mean, no, seatbelts don’t prevent all injuries. It’s just one of many safety tools. Masks are also not absolutely necessary, as relatively safe places like Australia show.

Masks are just another tool in your public health arsenal; by far the cheapest and simplest one. There’s no one thing to stop COVID-19, we need to throw everything and the kitchen sink at this disease. It’s a no-brainer to throw on a mask.

Why masks?

Why do masks work? Well, why does soap work? Did someone explain that to you, or do you just STFU and wash your hands?

Personally, I had no idea that soap broke up the lipid layer around a virus. Adults told me to use soap and the other kids were using soap so that’s just what I learned. It’s basic hygiene. My kids are capable of a pretty extended debate about bath time, but adults shouldn’t do this.

I know that mask-wearing is political in the west, but the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. We just think you’re unhygienic.

This goes beyond not washing your butts or wearing shoes in the house. Your ass, your house. Public health, however, is everyone’s ass. It comes into everyone’s homes. White people are literally breeding this virus while the rest of the world has largely suppressed it. That’s not cool. You don’t get to be exceptionally dumb. It’s not just masks, white nations are fucking everything up, and not masking is also a symbol of that deadly arrogance.

Frankly, no one needs to explain masking any more than explaining soap. Public health experts all over the world now recommend masks, many experienced people have been masking for decades now, so just do it.

If like a child, you must ask why, here’s the simplest explanation.

Don’t piss on my leg.

The nudist epidemic

Imagine a urination epidemic in a nudist colony. Nobody can hold it in, and it’s unconscious. Soon, everyone is covered in pee. Some people put on pants and are no longer pissing on (and off) their friends, but some unrepentant nudists are still wandering around, urinating on everyone. Even the people with pants get wet.

Finally, everyone gets together and says, ‘look, we’re all wearing pants until we figure this out’. So they do. Their culture has to change a bit, but it’s better than being drenched in urine. Now everyone is only pissing themselves, and not soiling the entire community. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

That’s the basic principle, except with your face. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that comes out of your face. You may not even know it’s there. The mask keeps it in.

It’s not really about protecting yourself, it’s about everyone protecting each other. Then the virus has two hurdles to jump, which is much harder.

My mask protects you, your mask protects me.

Does this work perfectly? No. Where I live we have universal masking in public, but we take them off in private. Most transmission (like molestation) is among close contacts, so we’d have to mask 100% of the time for it to work 100%, but it still helps a lot.

Nothing in public health is 100%. You just put enough 85 percents together and the herd is relatively safe. Modern hygiene is a lot of things — temperature checks, sinks outside businesses, etc. It’s also largely invisible — border closures, testing and tracing, quarantine centers. It’s a lot of different things working together, but above all, it’s people working together. That’s how we stay safe.

Masks are the most potent symbol of this new hygiene, it’s a sign that we’re all in this together, that we’re all sacrificing, that we all care about each other. So that’s why masks. Masks are a vital part of public health and, effectively, its flag.

Whiteness killing people

That’s also why it’s so maddening that many white people don’t wear masks. At a time when every country is pulling together, when most of the world is pulling together, white people at home and abroad want to be exceptional. Exceptionally arrogant and dumb.

I know it’ll ruffle feathers that I even talk about whiteness directly, but we have to. There’s obviously some connection. There is a clear connection with white countries and low masking rates, and an observable one with white people abroad.

Not all white people are unmasked, but most unmaskers are white.

As the scholar Priyamvada Gopal has been pilloried for saying — ‘White lives don’t matter. Not as white lives.’ This is difficult but important to understand. The problem is not the person, it’s whiteness. As Noel Igniatev said:

When we say we want to abolish the white race, we do not mean we want to exterminate people. We want to do away with the social meaning of skin color. To be against royalty does not mean wanting to kill the king. It means wanting to do away with crowns.

Whiteness has no cuisine, no music, or no art — it’s a power structure that rides on top of many different identities (French, American, Hungarian) and which is mainly experienced by others as a boot on a neck or a bomb from a drone.

Whiteness is the idea that heirs of colonialism, genocide, and enslavement are somehow exceptional and have nothing to learn from the rest of the world. They certainly have no obligations. Therefore masking is seen as a personal choice, which must be evaluated in terms of their own personal protection. Not as a personal responsibility, to protect us all.

Whiteness is this and bigger than this. It is the idea that certain people can travel wherever, while dark people need visas. It’s the idea that certain states can murder anywhere, while dark people are terrorists. Whiteness is the idea that white people are somehow exceptional, so intrinsically clean and pure that they’re above even basic hygiene.

So yes, white people.

It’s largely white people that won’t wear masks, for reasons of whiteness. If that’s not you then congratulations, welcome to the human race. Be whatever equal identity you want, but white power is out. In equality, in solidarity, in basic cleanliness, please, wear a fucking mask. Wear them at home to save yourselves, and if you’re ever allowed out of your countries again, please wear them here to preserve our hard-fought gains.

indica

Views from the global south

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

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