Since millions took to the streets in the past month to protest against police brutality and racism, and the coronavirus crisis has forced us all to wear masks for the past three months (minus white folks protesting against protecting their lives), one way to fuse the two has been with masks that proudly state that “Black Lives Matter.”
But around the country, essential workers who want to stand in solidarity with the cause are learning that their jobs aren’t as welcoming to it. Just recently, an employee at a Publix supermarket in Lehigh Acres, Fla., claims he quit his job being told he wouldn’t be allowed to wear his mask to work.
According to the News-Press in Fort Myers, Quinton Desamour, 18, said that when he arrived to work on June 6 with “BLM” scribbled across his blue paper mask, his supervisor stopped him, told him to remove his mask and said that the teenager “was endangering myself and everybody else who worked there.”
“Then he said he couldn’t have me out on the floor with that mask on,” Desamour added.
Demamour said he had no choice but to leave and when we got home, he decided he wasn’t coming back—ever.
According to The Hill, Publix, who sent a staff email denouncing racism around the same time of the incident and announced they would be donating $1 million to National Urban League affiliates, issued a statement addressing Demamour’s situation. They claim they have a strict dress code policy.
“Our uniform policy does not permit non-Publix messaging on clothing or accessories,” said Publix spokesperson Maria Brous.
However, Desamour—who recently graduated from high school who is planning to play college basketball at ASA College in Miami —says this rule isn’t applied fairly.
In an interview with an ABC-7 affiliate earlier this month, Desamours said that “many, many employees have different designs on their masks.”
“There is an employee that has a comic strip on his mask. So, it seems like they just didn’t like the message I was trying to portray,” adding, “They say they stand for justice against racism and inequality but as soon as I stand up against something in their uniform, they don’t like it.”
Unlike Starbucks, who reversed their anti-BLM policy for their workers after getting dragged on social media, it doesn’t look like Publix plans on changing their minds anytime soon.