Lopez: There is privilege in being heard; stop spreading conspiracies

%28Graphic+Illustration+by+Dylan+Tusinsk+%7C+The+Collegian%29

(Graphic Illustration by Dylan Tusinsk | The Collegian)

Dominique Lopez, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Teachers in schools across the country are begging their respective school boards to better follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. This plea is often overlooked by school boards, and there are still few harsh mandates being placed on school districts despite the growing rate of COVID-19 cases.

Ad

After reading this, the question is why so many different counties have different mask mandates and also why many people use their freedom of speech to fight against these mask mandates when they are there to protect everyone, including those against them.

So why is it so hard to put a piece of cloth over your face when it has been proven to protect you and the others around you?

Well, many of the people who choose to fight against these mask mandates are those of privilege — the ones who think that if the virus hasn’t affected them, then it isn’t real. However, due to the increasing number of deaths and cases, it is clear that this isn’t the reality.

“People using their privilege to have leverage on others is bound to happen, but it’s our job to draw that line.”

Surgical masks were first used in 1897 for the purpose of medical procedures and since then have been continuously used to slow down the transfer of respiratory and infectious droplets. They have been proven time and time again as something that can easily lessen the spread of the contagious virus that causes COVID-19.

Now, however, they are seen as a restriction to one’s personal rights and medical rights. Those who feel as though wearing a mask is not necessary often have a privileged background. They claim that if they are not personally affected by the pandemic — which some even protest doesn’t exist at all — why should they have to wear a “muzzle” to protect themselves from it?

When the pandemic first hit, at least 59% of U.S. citizens reported they were wearing a mask the moment they left the house. However, now that this pandemic has lasted two years and government mandates have been put into place to ensure that everyone is lessening the risk of the virus spreading, the prevalence of anti-maskers has grown. These anti-maskers or “COVID-truthers” — deniers or conspiracy theorists — have now chosen to use their freedom of speech and right to protest to push their own political beliefs as well as their own conspiracies about the virus itself.

The idea of freedom of speech was granted to those within the United States so they could fight for what they believed in. However, when it comes to a pandemic, the simple idea of protecting humanity and those around you seems to have become a foreign concept.

“There is a privilege in being immediately listened to or believed.”

Everyone has the right to use their freedom of speech in their own way, whether that is through choosing to protest against masks or protest against vaccine mandates. Freedom of speech was granted to Americans over 200 years ago to ensure that everyone could speak out against something for the greater good of humanity; now, it has become something used to speak out against even things that benefit oneself.

For years, people of color fought against the many things that oppress them and were never heard until their protests became violent. The media sensationalized this risk of violence without proper coverage of the causes of the protests.

Now, just the simple act of a single white person holding up a sign claiming to be against masks or a prominent media personality saying they don’t agree with the government’s decisions gets so much attention. They never had to beg to be heard or turn toward violent actions — rather, they just had to express they are an oppressed white person, and the attention came flooding in.

Ad

There is a privilege in being immediately listened to or believed.

Some people may not have yet contracted COVID-19; they may have even contracted it and believe they are forever immune and never have to wear a mask. However, just one person choosing to not wear a mask affects so many others in such larger aspects that anti-maskers don’t see.

You may not know how much it hurts to experience a loved one dying from COVID-19 knowing it could have been prevented, but there are people who do. You may not feel as though you have been affected by the pandemic, so you don’t see a need to wear a mask, but others do. That is your privilege showing.

Freedom of speech should be used to protect and fight against others’ oppressions. It was created with the idea of granting someone the right to speak about whatever they want without government intervention.

People using their privilege to have leverage on others is bound to happen, but it’s our job to draw that line. When you use it to push propaganda about something that is hurting and taking people’s lives, it’s clear you value freedom of speech only when it benefits you. Recognize the flaw you are creating within society by choosing to not wear your mask, and correct it because you are hurting others more than a mask is hurting you.

Reach Dominique Lopez at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @caffeinateddee6.