Masks, Identity and Bias

Appearance
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
People, Identity & Culture
Race & Racism
COVID-19 illustration of people in white medical face mask

iStock

Grade Level:
Elementary School,
Middle School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language
Appearance
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
People, Identity & Culture
Race & Racism

Masks Have Been Used for Protection and Expressing One's Identity

In April 2020, wearing masks became an important part of our attire and everyday lives due to the global pandemic. The CDC strongly recommends wearing a cloth face covering or face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. Masks can be used to express one’s cultural or ethnic identity. Throughout history, masks have been worn by different cultural and religious groups during important ceremonies like weddings, funerals, etc. Masks are also used to portray characters or as a disguise on festive occasions like Halloween.

Why Mask Wearing May Be Dangerous for Some

Long held stereotypes and biases about people of color are causing some to feel uncomfortable or scared to wear a mask in public. According to a Washington Post article "some black men have expressed their fear of being mistaken for an assailant if they enter a store wearing a mask, particularly a homemade one." And Asian Americans have been yelled at, spit on and physically assaulted and blamed for the Coronavirus. Acts of bias and hate in society and even by law enforcement have caused some to become torn between safety and stigma over wearing masks.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to explore the different ways people wear masks, reflect on aspects of our identity that we can express through face masks, and make a face mask that expresses an aspect of our identity.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will identify the different purposes for wearing masks. 
  • Students will consider what identity is and what aspects of identity can be conveyed through a face mask.
  • Students will create a drawing and a mask that expresses an aspect of their identity.
  • Students (grades 5-7) will consider how racial stereotypes and bias can impact some people’s experiences and fears in wearing masks.

More from this Section

Masks, Identity and Bias

Masks have became a part of our attire due to the global pandemic. Use this lesson to teach students the different purposes for wearing masks, how they are used to express identity and why mask wearing may be dangerous for some due to racial stereotypes and biases.