Your anti-mask crusade is not a fight against oppression

STUDENTS PROTEST MASKS at Ladera Ranch Middle School. Matt Goldbaum.

Brookelynn Hodgin | Writer

12 February 2022

On Thursday, San Juan Hills High School students could be found up on the hill above their campus filming a video for their anti-mask—oh sorry, I meant “pro-mask choice”—campaign they call Student Choice Mask Group. On Tuesday, many students were posting to Instagram and Snapchat, encouraging their peers to politely refuse to wear a mask in class per state mask mandate. On Wednesday, many students did just that, and they were asked to leave campus.

All around Orange County and Southern California schools, in elementary, middle, and high schools, protests, walkouts, and “civil disobedience” are beginning to catch fire.

Young children are not capable of possessing a nuanced and individually crafted opinion on the mask mandate that would move them enough to protest. In many cases, it is the parents’ concern—and not the child’s genuine discomfort—that leads to mask protests in schools. However, even the protests among older students show a lack of awareness of the issue.

SAN JUAN HILLS High School students protesting. Matt Goldbaum.

Numerous students could be seen manning signs like “We choose freedom” and “We wanna see your smile.” But one of the more popular signs, which has seemingly become the unofficial slogan for the movement, “Let Us Breathe,” has sparked controversy and outrage with many students who disagree with the protests.

February being Black History Month, many connected an irony with the slogan and police brutality on POC, specifically within the black community. When George Floyd was murdered in May 2020,  tapes were released that revealed Floyd begging for his life, gasping out “I can’t breathe” as Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for seven minutes. BLM and those protesting against police brutality repeated the quote. Juxtaposed from the “I can’t breathe” protests over systematic killings of black men by the police, using the phrase “Let Us Breathe” over having to wear a piece of light cloth over the mouth, as if it were oppressing the right to breathe, is tone-deaf and ignorant.

Many anti-mask mandate posts, such as one circulating through the Instagram posts of Moms on the Ground, an anti-vaccine mandate grassroots movement, paint the refusal to wear a mask as a courageous act that aligns students with heroes who stood up for their rights such as Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, and Martin Luther King. It is ludicrous to compare protesting a mask mandate, which is non-discriminatory, to protesting a violation of civil rights, freedom of religion, and a violation of one’s life. Anne Frank was murdered in the Holocaust, as were six million others, because she was Jewish and living under the Nazi regime. So no, protesting masks is nothing of courage in comparison to Anne Frank and all other heroes throughout history who fought until the end for their right to live.

Another popular picket seen in protests, as well as one of the only facts the movement seems to cite in their defense, is “Only .001% of children die from COVID.” While that may be true, that doesn’t shift the impact of those lives lost due to the pandemic. A death is not just a number or a statistic, but a cataclysmic event for a family, friends, and community. To water it down to a percentage completely undermines the extremity of the situation and devalues the lives taken from COVID-19. 

COVID-19 is a deadly viral infection that has killed nearly one million Americans and over 80,000 Californians. Further, all Californians, regardless of vaccination status,  are mandated to wear masks in schools. The mandate was not put in place to oppress students, teachers, or visitors, but to protect those on campus and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Our healthcare system—which is already tirelessly overwhelmed, understaffed, and fluctuating in and out of max capacity due to case spikes—greatly benefits from the use of masks. 

Masks aren’t intended to strip anyone of their freedom. They are designed to protect those around us—those we love. Failing to realize that and trying to disprove and dismantle that isn’t just ignorant—it’s a choice that comes from a position of privilege and entitlement.

This has nothing to do with bodily autonomy and everything to do with keeping people safe. You aren’t being oppressed. People are dying, and masks aren’t the killer—Covid is.

5 Comments on Your anti-mask crusade is not a fight against oppression

  1. This article is a joke. You have completely misconstrued the argument. Let the child and family decide if they want to wear the mask now that the indoor mandate has been lifted. If thousands of people can attend a Super Bowl and be mask less so can our children. This is over.

  2. I’m 100% freedom of opinion. This article is obvious bias reporting. The problem with media and journalism today. As a school I hope the teacher will be actively teaching this is NOT how journalism should be. You can have your ” opinion piece” but have you actually talked to any of these students? Have you contacted the (mom’s on the ground) movement? Slandering a group of students and calling them “anti maskers” with a oops sorry “pro mask choice” is horrible for a student paper. This is creating more divide and disconnect. Tone deaf and ignorant is using this piece to obviously attack a strong movement and not cover all angles. Our public school system is failing you and my student. I’m horrified as a mother of a schs students that this was printed!

    • Hi Lindsey!
      This is Brookelynn, the author of the article. Thank you for your comment, I appreciate you sharing your opinion on the topic and progressing the conversation.
      I would like to note that this article is apart of the columns and opinion section of Triton Times, so bias is going to be included and my own personal opinion is to be discussed. Also, contributing to my own personal writing style, you could call it provocative or “dividing,” but this has actually created very insightful and interesting conversations within classrooms, out in the quad, and on social media, taking in opinions and standpoints from both viewpoints! I’m not discouraging anyone from sharing their opinion, nor do I shoot down anyone else’s opinion, rather, I simply shared my own opinion and am glad that students and community members, regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed with my stance, felt moved enough to respond. Uncomfortable, respectful discourse encourages the formation of new opinions and is very healthy and is something that I believe is lacking in our school and in this day and age in general.
      As a senior here at SCHS, I’m very much aware of student opinion, and as a student, have an opinion on the matter of my own. I’m sorry if you misinterpreted some of the strong language as being geared towards the movement itself, which yes! I agree, it is an incredibly strong movement, and admire the strength and community the movement has garnered. It’s wonderful seeing students participate and exercise their fundamental Constitutional rights. I wasn’t calling the movement itself “ignorant” or “tone-deaf,” but, as I expressed in the article, saying that in regards to the comparison of the mask in school mandate to the Holocaust or comparing students protesting masks to Anne Frank, for example, which, I find abhorrent. If you disagree with that, I respect what you believe.
      I really appreciate your feedback and you taking the time to respond to my article. Again, I apologize for any offense you took, however, as is my opinion, that is your opinion, and I respect you and your right to express that as loud as you please. Thank you!

  3. Oh boy. This next generation a lot to learn as they mature more into adulthood. It’s a shame these adults who are ultimately in charge of these articles allow such a piece to be published. Shaming fellow peers for simply wanting the choice to breath shows you the direction media outlets are going in w/ future content authors such as Brookelynn. Oh well! My child will ALWAYS fight for what is right regardless of what his blind peers say and I will be sure to show him this shallow, senseless article to show him what NOT to do. Sad to see how political agendas have placed a mask not only over the mouths and noses of people, but over the eyes of the next generation. Pro choice!!!! Like it or not, no more masks!! If you’re scared, then stay home in your hideout where you feel safe. YOU wear a mask, not me, not my son, not others who choose freedom.

  4. “Let us breathe” hardly juxtaposes “I can’t breathe”, with the situation spawning the latter arguably preferable to the current situation.

    First of all, a factual correction: there is no “systematic” killing of black men by law enforcement; four police officers conspiring over the span of ten minutes hardly constitutes a system, and it’s not like there’s a hit list posted at the police department. There is no system. Misinformation.

    I agree with your assertion that teenagers are unable to posses nuanced opinions. Your article provides great evidence of that. You asserted that protesting mask mandates is incomparable to protesting civil rights and freedom of religion, but they are often one in the same. For example, a Christian Scientist choosing not to wear a mask or have the COVID-19 vaccine administered so as to avoid medical treatment, in line with their faith. Is it protesting the masks? Is it protesting for freedom of religion? It’s both. Between the disregard for religious sentiment and support for government oppression expressed in this article, it would fit nicely in the Soviet Union.

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