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Opinion: The message of Pink Shirt Day can’t be limited to one day

Social acceptance of bullying might have changed from 30 years ago, but a problem still remains.
Pink Shirt Day is an anti-bullying campaign and express kindness to one another.

The last Wednesday in February is set aside each year as a day to take a stand against bullying.

There are different labels for it. Day of Pink. Pink Shirt Day. Anti-Bullying Day. But the message is the same: it’s the day when we renew our desire to fight bullying.

But it can’t just be the one day a year when we commit ourselves to taking a stand versus bullies, nor can it be limited to a symbolic gesture of wearing a pink shirt.

If you want to fight bullying, then you have to commit to the cause throughout the year. And it’s not just good enough to say we won’t be bullies. We have to call out bullying whenever we see it.

Nobody deserves to be bullied.

I find the message of the Day of Pink doesn’t resonate like it did a decade ago. Perhaps that’s because it was something new when it was introduced. We often tune something out when we’ve heard about it again and again, year after year.

Or maybe it’s simply a matter of timing. Back in 2012, a Pink Shirt Day walk was held in Estevan for the first time. A very large crowd marched through downtown Estevan on Fourth Street on an absolutely gorgeous Wednesday afternoon. In late April.

Most of that crowd was school students. But you had a good number of people from the community. Over the years the number of people from the community slowly dwindled, until it was event organizers and a handful of dignitaries joining the school kids.

A skeptic would wonder how many kids viewed the walk as nothing more than a reason to get out of school for an hour or two.

Now that everything is concentrated into one day in February, it’s tougher to have these events for the schools and the community. The schools are on their winter break. While they had activities last week, the impact isn’t the same as the day of the event.

As for a community walk, it wouldn’t be the same without the kids, and it’s going to be tough to get people to do even a short walk on a bitterly cold February afternoon. 

Still, I support the efforts to have things happen to fight bullying.

I was bullied when I was a kid. With my size, build, voice and glasses, I made an easy target. It didn’t help that I snubbed my nose at virtually anything related to popular culture at the time.

The bullying was particularly bad in the later years of elementary school and the first couple of years in high school. By the later years of high school, my peers grew more accepting and the antics subsided, although nobody would have classified me as one of the cool kids.

I’ll admit there were peers I didn’t treat as well as I should have.

I don’t know if anyone can say they have a spotless record when it comes to bullying, whether it’s being a bully or a bystander.

Back then, bullying was more culturally accepted. Oh sure, if it became physical and if it was caught, the staff stepped in. But the belief among many was that if you were bullied, you did something to bring it upon yourself, so it was up to you to change to be accepted. Nobody would tell the students just to accept the annoying little kid with bifocals.

We also have a greater awareness that bullying isn’t just a school thing. It happens every day in the workplace, within teams and organizations, and in the community as a whole. It’s important that we take the time to address bullying in these areas as well.

The advent of the internet has brought a new dimension to the issue. When I a kid, you went home at that was it. You didn’t have to face the issue again until the next school day. Now it can dog the target throughout the day.

There’s always going to be bullies. It’s not something that we’re going to magically just whisk away and never hear about again. We can vow to take a stand against bullies in schools or communities, but there will always be someone who will think it’s their right to treat someone poorly for being different.

Initiatives like the Pink Shirt Day are still of value. It’s still important that we take the time to reflect and consider how we can treat people better. Hopefully the message sinks in with some people.

We also need to follow through with that commitment throughout the year.

Only when we reach the unattainable objective of a world without bullies will we find ourselves in a situation in which Pink Shirt Day won’t be necessary.

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