On March 14, one month after the horrific Parkland shooting that shocked the nation, students across the country walked out of schools for 17 minutes – one minute for each student killed in the incident. Millenials have been brought up in a world plagued by mass shootings and are frankly sick of it. Many people, including political leaders and influential celebrities, commended the students for being a generation of change.
The day was a sign of the unification of America’s youth, as was it a reminder to politicians that these students will be voting age soon, however, just like any issue in the United States, the event has been met with a separation of groups.
A “them versus us” kind of ideology was once again created. More conservative posters on the internet have called the event useless, have tried to suggest that the youth are too naive to have opinions, or like most “pro-gun” posters, say that the issue is not guns but something else entirely.
This leads to the newest popular campaign, “Walk Up Not Out.” Posted mainly on social media with the same repeatedly screenshotted post, the paragraph calls out for students to walk up to students who are usually alone. The implication being, that by connecting with someone who you usually don’t connect to, bullying and isolation will decrease, thus leading to less mass shootings.
The logic behind it makes sense for a moment, but deeper inspection leads to obvious flaws.
Yes, we should be nice to each other. No one is arguing against that basic concept, but to pretend that just being nice will end school shootings is at best an oversimplification, and at worst, extremely problematic.
One of the major issues with the initiative is that people will not treat others as the post intends. Bullied and ostracized students will not feel better with pity friends. Most would rather be alone than have people pretend to like them, especially having someone pretend to like them because they are scared of them.
One of the Beacon members was bullied in middle school, and remembers being distinctively hurt and confused when a teacher assigned another student to befriend them, only to have the student tell them they were only befriending them “because the teacher told them to.”
This singling out of students who are just a little quiet, weird, and leading them to believe that their peers are actually scared of them can be detrimental to future mental health.
Even further, if the students enacting “Walk Up” did it with poise and grace, kindness is not a magic cure of mental illness. You can not solve life long issues with depression, or other mental disorders, just with a hug.
It’s a pretty concept, and one that surely does lend itself to memes shared by our grandparents on Facebook, but it’s not the truth and it never will be the truth.
One of the biggest issues, the issue that brought the most attention to the initiative, is that “Walk Up” victim blames the victims of the shootings. It’s basically saying, “if only the victims were nice to the shooter, then they wouldn’t be dead.”
It is not txhe students’ responsibility to maintain the mental health of their peers. It’s yet another way for people in power – school administrations, governments – to put the blame on the students for not doing enough to prevent murder. Students should not be expected to go up to students they deem to be a threat, in order to save themselves from being potentially murdered.
The initiative goes from being misguided to straight out dangerous when asking students to be responsible for the violence of their peers. It turns a school shooting incident into everyone’s fault, potentially increasing the already present survivor’s guilt into much, much more.
Walk Up is not a solution to gun violence. Walking up is simply silencing a political movement, and finding yet another way to move the discourse of school shootings away from gun laws.
Be nice to others, but don’t do it because you are afraid of them or you pity them. Be nice to others, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s your responsibility to save someone. Be nice to others, but don’t feel responsible for anyone’s actions other than your own.