By Jackie Sedley
Walk Up, Not Out is a recent movement in response to scheduled walk-outs occurring on elementary, middle and high school campuses across the nation.
Sparked by a Facebook post by Texan and retired teacher, David Blair, walk-ups urge students to focus less on civic engagement and more on individual acts of kindness when attempting to prevent future gun violence.
This movement also deters people from focusing on gun control laws as means to limit violence, but instead promotes social inclusion as a means to limit a student’s desire to commit such heinous acts.
Despite the apparent intent of the movement, Walk Up, Not Out entirely misses the point of the March For Our Lives protests. Student-led protests act as direct calls to government officials, allowing the voices of those directly affected by gun violence to be heard and taken seriously.
Advocates of Walk Up argue that the movement is a much more proactive alternative to protests like March For Our Lives because kindness toward others can be employed on a daily basis, and can prevent potential “student outcasts” from translating their teenage angst into violence.
While kindness is a virtue, an issue as prevalent and devastating as gun violence demands to be approached with the same level of intensity that its perpetrators carry. Simple acts of consideration toward others cannot promote the sort of widespread change that is so desperately needed right now.
In addition, the Walk Up movement has severe victim-blaming implications. By convincing students that their inclusion of their socially-estranged peers will limit gun violence, it makes children directly responsible for the protection of their own safety.
This pressure places the blame for shooters’ actions on those who appear to be enabling dangerous behaviors by bullying or exclusivity.
Walk-out protests advocate for change at the government level, and promote legislative attention to the issue of gun violence. While both movements demand accountability, Walk-Outs are highly visible demonstrations that place the responsibility on politicians to create laws that ensure the safety of those in the United States.
The call to Walk Up, Not Out is as ineffective as it is irresponsible. The movement’s approach seems to parallel the “boys will be boys” argument regarding rape, which promotes teaching women how to avoid sexual assault rather than teaching men not to perform the acts themselves.
Rather than teaching students not to commit violence, rather than instating legislation to limit one’s ability to obtain a gun, children and teachers are being told that the responsibility lies in their hands to prevent gun violence at their schools.
It also may not be as effective in practice as some may think. The students receiving this “kindness” would be children that are already socially isolated, and publicly labeling them as potential school shooters could have a serious effect on that child’s mental health.
The movement also has racist and sexist undertones. In an online article from AlterNet, contributor Kylie Cheung argues that while “we have no problem with accepting black and brown people as dangerous, we pull out all the stops to humanize mass shooters hailing from white communities. Women are disproportionately affected by gun violence, yet they are pressured to proactively stop the hypermasculine violence that targets them.”
Walk Up, Not Out places the level of responsibility that should be held by policymakers and appointed officials onto children and their schools, when they should already be protected by law. Any expectation of the nation’s youth to take on the responsibility of protecting themselves is both preposterous and contradictory to the values this country claims to uphold.