Distinctive Kutz is a black barbershop in suburban Atlanta. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the business and its raucous conversations, but Mitch Magee, its co-owner, still has some things to say.

Magee believes Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen some businesses across the state starting today is an “attack” on African Americans — one of the groups hit hardest by the virus. And he says it’s no coincidence that the businesses being reopened — including barbershops, nail salons and churches — are communal gathering places for black residents.

“It seems like it’s an attack on us. Those places are all in our community, where we live on top of one another,” he said. “I have right to be paranoid because our people are dying more than whites.”

In another time Magee’s fears might have stayed confined to his shop floor, along with his customers’ hair. But he is part of a growing chorus of black leaders and business owners who say that reopening Georgia economy places a dangerous burden on people of color. One prominent black pastor even said state officials were “diabolically” planning to exploit black people.

Pastor: This is ‘leaving us to the slaughter’

Kemp’s said he made the move because his shelter-in-place order was pummeling the state’s economy.
“Our small business owners are seeing sales plummet, and the company that they built with blood, sweat, and tears disappear right before them,” he said Monday in announcing his reopening plan. Kemp said he made his decision after consulting with health officials and that businesses that reopen should adhere to safety procedures by sanitizing workspaces, keeping physical distance between employees and wearing masks when appropriate.

Stephanie Davis, MBA

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