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Why ‘Walk Up, Not Out’ Is Toxic

On Wednesday, March 14th, 2018, students all across the nation gathered their stuff and walked out of class at 10 am. This peaceful protest was to last 17 minutes to commemorate the lives lost during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, that took place in February, and to encourage lawmakers to make stricter gun laws so a tragedy like this will not happen again. However, not all teachers agreed with or encouraged their students to take this silent stand. One such teacher was Jodie Katsetos who encouraged others to ‘Walk up, Not out” in a post on social media. The thought behind it is simple; go up to someone that is unappreciated or alone and be kind to them. After this post, and in light of the walkouts across the nation, the movement spread like wildfire.

Not everyone agrees with the “Walk Up, Not Out” mentality. For instance many think that the teacher is implying that if students were nicer to one another that massive acts of gun violence would not happen or, in essence, that she is blaming the victims for not taking further action. This ideology is supported by what she wrote on the whiteboard the day of the walk out, “What can YOU do?”. Others see it as demeaning to have students walk up to them just to start a conversation so if said person were to bring a gun to school the other student wouldn’t get hurt. Emily Cutler, assistant editor at Mad in America, writes “But on the other hand, I don’t know anything that sounds more paternalistic and disingenuous than “walking up” to someone and befriending them because you are afraid they will otherwise commit a mass shooting. The rhetoric in support of the #WalkUpNotOut campaign frames victims of bullying as dangerous individuals who may harm others if they are not treated with care and caution”. These ideas are not only toxic to the ones who get walked up to but it also presents the idea that all mass shooters were social outcasts who, with a little bit more care, would not harm a single soul. It also disregards the fact that not all shooters are motivated by revenge; some are motivated by mental disorders or accessibility to guns neither of which are changed by the fact that someone was nice to you. Yes, people should be kind to one another but to have the mindset that if the victims of mass shootings were kinder to one another they would not have had the tragedy happen….it’s just harmful to everyone involved. So keep advocating for better mental health care and for stricter gun control laws because our voices are being heard and it’s only just a matter of time before we see change.

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