The fight against bullying can’t end

It’s great that we mark occasions such as Pink Shirt Day.

Not that long ago, it wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t until a male Grade 9 student in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt in 2007 that we started to mark the occasion. Before too long, it grew to not only be a nationwide occasion, but an international concept, with schools and workplaces throughout the world marking Pink Shirt Day.

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But we can’t be content with anti-bullying efforts being confined to Pink Shirt Day and similar days that happen during the year.

Often we’ll have something one day or one week a year. We’ll pay attention to it in the days or weeks leading up to the occasion, and we’ll think about it in the days afterwards, but then we’ll get busy with all of the other things we have happening in our lives, and before we know it, we’ll return to our patterns from before Pink Shirt Day. The messages we heard and the lessons we learned will be forgotten, until the next similar day, or until next year.

We need to heed the messages of Pink Shirt Day, learn from them and apply them to our lives throughout the year.

It’s not that long ago that bullying was viewed as an unfortunate but almost accepted part of life. And we often viewed it as being confined to schools.

Kids would be picked on, and they would hear responses, such as “suck it up” or “it will make you tougher.” Sometimes, when they would report the incident, or if they would retaliate, they would be punished, or they would get the same treatment as their tormentor. 

And we would expect that this is something that would end as kids get older.

To an extent, those days are, thankfully, over. Fewer people view bullying as normal. We no longer say that some people are bullied because they deserve it, or because they bring it on themselves. We no longer condone some who do it because they’re going along with the flow. And we encourage people to stop being bystanders on this issue. 

These are all positive changes in the right direction. 

We’ve also seen a greater awareness that bullying is not just a school issue. It’s an issue that extends to the workplace, into the community. It happens in families. It happens among adults.

It’s more prevalent in some aspects of life than others, but for many, it’s still there. 

We’ve had a few Pink Shirt Day walks in Estevan, first through downtown Estevan when the walk was held in the spring, and then at Affinity Place when the Pink Shirt Day was shifted to the winter. 

It was great when you would see hundreds of pink-clad people, most of them school students, walking down Fourth Street. And you would hope that the messages they heard from the speakers would lead to some genuine change.  

The idea of completely getting rid of bullying forever and ever is impossible. There will always be bullies, just like there will always be criminals.

But what you can do is take a hardline on bullying, so that those responsible know there will be consequences and that their actions won’t be tolerated. 

But more importantly than anything else, it’s important to be there for the victims of bullying, to let them know they’re loved and people care for them. It’s critical to remind them that this isn’t their fault, and they don’t have to change for anyone.   

And that’s a big part of the value of Pink Shirt Day.  

So yes, it’s great that there’s a Pink Shirt Day and other days that we say we won’t tolerate bullying, but it would be even better if we always had the same attitude that we have on Pink Shirt Day.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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