'Freedom Cafe' description is a perfect response to arguments against mask requirements

To mask or to mask? That is the question millions of Americans are asking as more cities and states are implementing mask requirements in public to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.

The polarization on this issue is frankly a little baffling. The science is clear on how and why universal masking is effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. (Viruses don't fly out of people's bodies by themselves—they get carried in droplets. Masks help us keep our droplets to ourselves when we talk, laugh, cough or sneeze.)

For many Americans, science itself is either seen an anathema or a government conspiracy to control the masses. And for many Americans, having the government tell us to do anything at all is seen as infringing on our individual liberties. So here we are, arguing about wearing masks as a public health measure.

Twitter user "Libby" has a satirical take on the issue, one that perfectly illustrates how absurd anti-mask arguments sound in the context of public health.


"Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!" she wrote. "We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food."

"We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom," she continued, "but understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps or may simply prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.

We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is sufficient, and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs."

"Some of our cooks may prefer to use the same utensils for multiple ingredients, including ingredients some customers are allergic to. That is a cook's right to do so," she added.

"Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hands can't touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are healthy and clean."

"Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they'd prefer to wash the silverware you will put in your mouth.

Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you'll agree that it's a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do - and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy."

And there you have it.

Does anyone argue with public health departments establishing requirements for food handling and safety? No. Does anyone complain that such requirements are an infringement on individual liberties? No. Why? Because we all agree that keeping people healthy in public places is super important and that having such requirements in place, no matter what people's personal preferences or beliefs or comfort levels are, is a good idea.

We're not used to thinking of public health as something we all have to actively participate in, but that's absolutely the way we must think of it during a pandemic. Since we're experiencing a reality we've never experienced in our lifetime, we're going to have to expect some changes we've never experienced before as well.

But it's not even like the idea of wearing a mask to protect others is a new idea. Surgeons wear masks to keep fluids away from their faces, but also to keep their own germs out of patients' bodies. When I lived in Japan two decades ago, it was commonplace to see people wearing masks in public because they had a cold and were trying to limit their germ spread as a matter of courtesy.

Stop making mask-wearing a political thing. Stop saying that masks don't work when there is ample evidence now that they do. Masks are used to limit the spread of the virus is practically every country, and our widespread resistance to it in the name of "freedom" has very real consequences.

No one actually likes wearing a mask. It sucks for all of us. But it's the right thing to do because universal masking is only effective if we all actually do it. So toughen up, America. Let's use the freedom we have to do the hard, right thing and show the world we're not as selfish and uninformed as we seem.

Photo courtesy of Capital One
True

Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Sterling Pics

Pinky Cole, owner of the Slutty Vegan

Last year, in the middle of what we thought were the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic, after endless months of cooking at home, my husband and I decided to venture out of our cocoon and get "slutified." That's what people are called after a visit to one of Atlanta's hottest burger joints, provocatively named, Slutty Vegan.

Owned by 33-year-old fuchsia-loc'd maven and philanthropist Aisha "Pinky" Cole, Slutty Vegan has three locations in the ATL, with more in the works. Her menu reads more like a list of offerings at a bordello than a restaurant, with the "Ménage à Trois," "One Night Stand," and the "Super Slut," and the atmosphere is more like a night club. But, it's not just the cheeky burger names or the concept of plant-based fast food that has customers literally wrapped around the block at all of her locations, it's the vibe she's created. Slutty Vegan is more than a restaurant. It's a culture. And Cole is at the center of it, building a community based on supporting Black entrepreneurs, getting involved in politics, giving back, and being thoughtful about what you put into your body.


Keep Reading Show less