The exhibition “This is Not a Drill: The Feelings, Memories, and Cultural Impact of Active Shooter Drills,” created by SC&I Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Khadijah Costley White, and sponsored by the Maplewood Division of Arts and Culture, will be held from April 16 - May 28, 2023 at the 1978 Maplewood Arts Center in Maplewood, N.J.
Describing “This is Not a Drill” as “a series of booths that blocks out the visual noise of everyday life,” the Maplewood Division of Arts and Culture wrote, “As news of school shootings continues to break with agonizing frequency across the U.S., school districts have taken measures they claim will keep students safe. Metal detectors, armed guards, and active-shooter lockdown drills are now commonplace. But these changes in school security are often at odds with a healthy learning environment, contributing instead to a culture of fear and anxiety.
What happens when you are trained to see children as threats? What happens when the efforts to create safety actually make some children feel unsafe? When the efforts made to improve safety actually cause harm?
“. . . New Jersey has some of the most extensive active shooter drill laws in the country and this work helps examine what that means for New Jersey students. Even more, it reflects on what it means to be a society in which our collective failure to adequately regulate guns falls on the shoulders of children.”
In an interview with the Maplewood Division of Arts and Culture, titled “This is Not a Drill: A Conversation with Dr. Khadijah Costley White,” Costley White explained what she hopes exhibit visitors will learn through her installation, which is a continuation of an original exhibit White showed in 2021.
“On the face of it, the installation is about a massive national intervention implemented in schools that make children responsible for our complete and utter refusal to control guns in this country,” Costley White said. “We have collectively decided it makes more sense to teach three-year-olds to hide from gunmen than to take the guns away. So, in part, I hope it's a space of reflection that urges people to think about how and why we should approach this differently. There is no evidence that these drills make kids safer, yet we have created an entire industry around fortressing and hardening schools in ways that contradict the findings and make kids less safe. There’s a lesson there, too.
“I think the installation additionally pushes people to think about what happens in schools when we see them as targets instead of as spaces of refuge and comfort, learning, connection, and community. What happens when you are trained to see children as threats? What happens when the efforts to create safety actually make some children feel unsafe? When the efforts made to improve safety actually cause harm? I hope the installation makes people think about all the many ways our society forces the most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the collective cowardice and weakness of those who hold the most power. I want it to be something that helps people imagine what it means to be a child today in a society that has decided to accept mass shootings as part of our everyday lives.” Read the full interview here.
SC&I Interim Dean and Distinguished Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Dafna Lemish, and Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Regina Marchi, were among the attendees at the exhibition's opening on April 16. Lemish tweeted, “Creative installation and panel on school drills for mass shooters and their traumatizing impact on children created by our colleague @khadastrophic @RutgersCommInfo. Haunting experience listening to testimonies in dark stuffy closets stimulating a drill experience.”
Costley White, who previously worked as a journalist on an Emmy-nominated team at NOW on PBS (formerly NOW with Bill Moyers) and a New York City Teaching Fellow, researches race and gender in media and politics.
Her book, “The Branding of Right-Wing Activism: The News Media and the Tea Party” (Oxford, 2018), examines the rise of the Tea Party in online, print, broadcast, and cable news. In addition to her scholarly work, she consults on documentary films and has served the MacArthur Foundation as an external advisor in journalism and media. In 2007 the National Association of Black Journalists and United Nations awarded her a reporting fellowship to Senegal. She has also received the University of Pennsylvania Women of Color at Penn Award, an Emerging Diversity Scholar citation from the University of Michigan, and was a White House intern on the Obama administration’s Broadcast Media team.
I hope the installation makes people think about all the many ways our society forces the most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the collective cowardice and weakness of those who hold the most power. I want it to be something that helps people imagine what it means to be a child today in a society that has decided to accept mass shootings as part of our everyday lives.
Costley White received a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and was a Fontaine Fellow there. She earned a Bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College.
The opening for “This is Not a Drill: The Feelings, Memories, and Cultural Impact of Active Shooter Drills,” was held on Sunday, April 16, 2023, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the 1978 Maplewood Arts Center, 1978 Springfield Avenue, Maplewood, New Jersey 07040. The event included a 2 p.m. conversation with Robin Cogan, Director of the NJ School Nursing Association.
Following the opening, the installation will be open at the 1978 Maplewood Arts Center until May 28, 2023, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, it will be open from 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, it will be open from 2 to 4 p.m.
To reserve a time to view the installation, click here. Walk-ins are welcome.
The installation was funded with support from the Whiting Public Engagement Program.
Banner image design credit: Maplewood Division of Arts and Culture.
Photo: Lemish, Costley White, and Marchi at the exhibition's opening on April 16, 2023.
Photo courtesy of SC&I Interim Dean Dafna Lemish.