On Jan. 23, thousands of protesters appeared in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to vaccine mandates. The fact that the protest took place six days after the nation commemorated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. holds profound significance.
More than five decades after King’s assassination, Americans face the worst segregation since the civil rights movement. That segregation has nothing to do with the myth of “systemic racism” decried by the “woke.” It has nothing to do with race, creed or gender. It does, however, have everything to do with the authoritarian agenda the “woke” seek to promote.
Just as equal access to facilities, opportunities and legal status motivated King and his contemporaries, so has equal access for the unvaccinated and unmasked become the civil-rights issue of our time. Just as segregationists sought to limit access for the sake of an alleged greater social good, so do the “progressives” who demand that vaccinations and mandates continue indefinitely for the sake of “public health” and “the common good.”
Just as bigoted segregationists viewed African-Americans as second-class citizens whose every movement must be closely monitored and controlled, so do bigoted “progressives” view the unvaccinated.
Los Angeles recently provided a disturbing example. On Jan. 18, New West Charter School, a public school in the Los Angeles Unified School District for Grades 8-12, not only prohibited unvaccinated students from attending class. They were forced to stand outside behind police tape. Almost every student was wearing a mask.
“They asked for chairs, were denied & are sitting on the pavement, not allowed to even use restroom,” a group called Let Them Breathe posted on Twitter. “LAPD is on site but not intervening.”
All this happened despite the fact that on Dec. 14, the district chose to delay its vaccine mandate until the fall.
Principal Shannon Weir even publicly told parents that any student who did not leave campus would be suspended. Weir refused to answer questions.
“We’re being threatened to be suspended because we don’t have the COVID-19 vaccine,” one student said on Twitter. “We’re being refused the right to attend school. We’re being segregated from the rest of the school.”
Another student said on Twitter, “I feel embarrassed and segregated right now.”
How is the situation in Los Angeles any different than the situation in the Jim Crow South, where African-Americans were routinely and arbitrarily refused admittance to schools and services at various businesses? Where a female seamstress ignited the civil rights movement merely by sitting where she wanted to sit on a racially segregated bus?
Segregation mania even reached Utah, one of the nation’s least “woke” areas. On Jan. 15, while claiming that state officials were “waving the white flag of surrender in the battle against” COVID-19, the Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial that advocated this breathtaking measure:
“Were Utah a truly civilized place, the governor’s next move would be to find a way to mandate the kind of mass vaccination campaign we should have launched a year ago, going as far as to deploy the National Guard to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.” (emphasis added)
The fact that a newspaper with an obviously “progressive” bent considers such a measure “truly civilized” is truly frightening.
How many racial segregationists justified their position as “truly civilized,” given the assumed inferiority of African-Americans? More importantly, how far would the Tribune’s editorial board go to ensure a “truly civilized” Utah? Would they go as far as “Bull” Connor, the commissioner of public safety for Birmingham, Ala., the man who used police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses against legitimately peaceful protesters, including children?
Would the editorial board go as far as the Nazis, who viewed Jews and other “non-Aryans” as threats to racial health and dealt with them brutally?
All this panic not only disregards studies showing that COVID-19 vaccines and masks can be detrimental, let alone ineffective, or statistics showing the vaccinated to be more likely to be infected with variants. It disregards the growing number of countries discontinuing vaccination and mask mandates as both detrimental and ineffective – including Great Britain, which had adopted some of the strictest measures.
Perhaps more tellingly, the panic disregards the Supreme Court’s decision against the federal government’s quest to impose mandates on private businesses.
Yet power can be a robust intoxicant, and panic an even more robust accelerant. On Jan. 13, Rasmussen released a poll of 1,016 likely voters. The poll, with a sampling error of plus-or-minus three percentage points, showed some alarming findings:
— 59 percent of Democrats support forcing the unvaccinated to stay home at all times, except for emergencies.
— 55 percent of Democrats approve of levying fines against anyone who chooses not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
— 48 percent of Democrats endorse imposing fines or imprisoning anybody who questions the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
— 47 percent of Democrats support a government tracing program to track anybody who refuses the vaccines.
— 45 percent of Democrats agree with forcing the unvaccinated to live in “designated facilities,” such as the internment camps Australia established.
— 29 percent of Democrats favor the state temporarily removing parental custody of children if the parents refuse to get COVID-19 vaccines.
By contrast, substantial majorities of both Republicans and likely voters in general opposed each measure.
These Democrats are the same people who brag about being “compassionate” and “inclusive,” who constantly demand “social justice.”
If “segregation” fails to describe any of the policies listed, then the term holds no meaning.
However, the tide might be turning, with the recent protest providing just one example.
At Stanford, one of the “wokest” of the nation’s “woke” precincts, more than 1,000 students signed a petition demanding that the administration rescind mandates for vaccine boosters. A doctoral candidate, Monte Fischer, began the drive and gathered 1,600 signatures in the first week.
“We are not anti-booster or anti-vaccination,” the petition states. “We are pro-bodily autonomy and support the rights of Stanford students to evaluate the data and make their own medical choices.”
In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Fischer went further.
“I, along with many Stanford community members,” he said, “believe that it is paternalistic and coercive to mandate boosters in the light of so much evidence suggesting that boosters confer little benefit to young people and carry real risks, both known and unknown.”
“Paternalistic” and “coercive” also describe the segregation King and his associates confronted.
Fischer found support from two physicians and professors: Dr. Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford’s medical school and Dr. Vinay Prasad, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco. Bhattacharya initiated the Great Barrington Declaration, a statement from doctors worldwide who opposed comprehensive lockdowns.
“This type of overreach poisons trust in Public Health,” tweeted Prasad, who mentioned that Dr. Paul Offit, an award-winning pediatrician who specializes in immunology and vaccines, recommended that his 20-year-old son not get the mRNA vaccine.
Bhattacharya also used Twitter to describe the intimidating climate on campus.
“To my discredit, I have been reluctant to engage in local advocacy, in part because of the stifling, hostile atmosphere @Stanford to dissent against lockdowns and mandates,” he tweeted. “I am grateful for @themontefischer‘s call to let the winds of freedom blow again.”
Students at other universities are following suit with similar petitions. But what if the powers-that-be ignore them?
Perhaps students could adopt a technique from the turbulent 1960s: sit-ins at the offices of university administrators. Another technique from the civil rights movement could prove decisive in smashing arbitrary mandates.
Young African-Americans protested the segregation of lunch counters by actually sitting at those counters. Unvaccinated, unmasked citizens could protest similarly by organizing large groups to patronize businesses, libraries, schools or other places that demand masks or proof of vaccination. Yes, people will get arrested, just as the young African-Americans did six decades ago. But unjust laws that violate the American spirit and Constitution fail to disappear on their own.
Policy analyst Anthony LaMesa provided the perfect rejoinder to officials who wish to segregate the unvaccinated.
“Democracies are fragile,” LaMesa said, “and a novel respiratory virus circulating is not a good reason to suspend basic rights and constitutional protections for years on end.”
But when it comes to respect for the Constitution and its values, today’s “progressives” are no different than yesterday’s bigoted segregationists.
Joseph Hippolito is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine. His commentaries have appeared in The Federalist, The Stream, Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post and National Post.