The power of walkouts

With the recent political unrest in women’s rights, gun control and other topics, walkouts are becoming more and more common as more and more people decide to stand up for what is right. Although the sentiment is nice, what is the impact of such an action? What is the effect? Where is the change?

A walkout is a great way to protest against unfair policies or to make a statement or idea known. They can be conducted with a multitude of people, uniting everyone under one cause, and can take place anywhere relevant to the focus. Especially in a time where support for demonstrations can be extended through social media, the scope of which the impact of an action takes place can easily expand across the country. However, if nothing is done following the walkout by its participants, the act of walking out dissipates into nothing more than a unheard cry for help.

Recently, students participated in the National School Walkout that was meant to show politicians, adults and the community that incidents of gun violence must end. Students left their classrooms from 10 to 10:17 a.m.; 17 minutes in remembrance for the 17 victims of the Parkland High School shooting. The intention was there, but the action fell short. Following the walkout, what changes have come?

At our own demonstration, there were even cries of outrage because of faculty attempting to usher students back into classrooms early. If the students participating in the walkout could not get the support of faculty, perhaps the main focus of such an action should have been getting community support and participation, whether that is expanding participation or simply raising awareness. By doing so, there is an increased awareness in and impact on the community rather than on the fraction of students who decided to participate. Take the Day Without Women movement. It was a day in which women were told to refrain from performing their everyday activities such as shopping, going to work, etc, in order to portray the impact women have on the world and economy. Democratic women of Congress also performed a walkout of their own after their speeches. Yet after the walkout on campus, there was no action taken to expand the fight and support the cause outside of school.

But what if we had done something more? What if there had been an event that involved neighboring schools, the community, or the county? Letters, petitions, calls to Congress? Would there be a bigger effect?

In the end, a walkout is just a walkout. If there is nothing that follows the walkout, it remains just that. However, if action was taken in the days following it, the impact and the cause would not be easily overlooked or brushed aside. If action was taken, it would not just be a walkout, but also a start of change.

By Vivian Lee, In-depth editor
Photo by Melissa Kim