Today students around the country are taking time out of their school day to protest the utter failure of our political and cultural systems to protect them – our children – from gun violence.
And today, some people are extorting these students to #WalkUpNotOut. Apparently built on a single Facebook post, the idea is that instead of engaging in headline grabbing peaceful protest, students should “walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch” or “the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room” etc, etc.
Now, on the one hand, I am never going to discourage kids from being upstanders, but the #WalkUpNotOut concept bothers me on a couple of levels.
First, it perpetuates dangerous rhetoric that pathologizes victims of bulling and encourages the idea that the quiet kids, the loners, the kids who are outsiders are potentially dangerous future shooters who can be saved by more confident, outgoing, likely more popular kids just reaching out. In this way, it is not only patronizing to kids who are viewed as in need of being reached out to, it also is inherently victim blaming. Preventing school shootings is not the job of our kids who are not the perpetrators of bullying or violence.
Which brings me to the second big issue I have, which is that it very neatly allows adults to avoid the complex political questions underlying this whole issue – gun culture and toxic masculinity, chief among them – by exhorting kids not to make a case about those issues. If kids don’t take political action then we, as parents, don’t have to face the tough questions about why we are complicit in not taking action ourselves.
Finally, this is not something that should be either/or. Kids can #WalkOut today and #MarchForOurLives on the 24th and #WalkOut again on April 20th and address the issues that matter to them in very public ways. And they can also stand up to bullies, reach out to victims, and refuse to tolerate bullying and harassment in their friend groups. They can do that every single day. Hell, encourage your kid to invite the quiet kid in the corner to #WalkOut with them if they are so inclined. And tell them to respect the answer they get either way because victims are not the enemy here.
Featured Image courtesy of Flickr user Fibonacciblue.