On May 3, CSUN professor Blaine Pope picked up his 11-year old daughter from school in Santa Monica, and when they were about to head home, they passed by a small group of anti-mask protesters. At his child’s urging, Pope and his daughter engaged the protestors in a calm 20-minute conversation.
They stepped around the politics of the coronavirus pandemic, choosing to ask questions and be curious of people who held different beliefs. The interaction was caught on camera by a reporter for the Beverly Hills Courier.
Pope says he looked at the protestors and thought, “How do we have this kind of discussion and not want to scratch each other’s eyes out in the process? How do we talk about something that’s difficult to talk about, but do so in a respectful way?”
At John Adams Middle School/Will Rogers Elementary in Santa Monica, where anti-mask activists are protesting public safety guidelines requiring masks in school.— Samuel Braslow (@SamBraslow) May 3, 2021
Multiple SMPD cruisers nearby.
This is the third such protest in Los Angeles that I’ve documented. pic.twitter.com/qqozOF2zBd
Pope says, “I brought the sort of same energy or tone I bring when I teach, and my approach is not to either applaud something I agree with or jump down the throat of a student who I may disagree with, but really just to explore their thought process and allow people to express themselves. And then we begin to flesh out these concepts one by one.”
He adds, “We can still have good adult conversations. We don’t necessarily have to convince each other in that moment that one side is right, one side is wrong. But maybe we sit with that for a while, and we sit with these difficult issues, and let issues percolate. That’s another approach simply.”