Call it bullying, call it harassment, call it oppression and discrimination, call it treating each other badly – whatever you want to call it the world needs a lot less of it.
This week includes Pink Shirt Day, a day that originated in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a couple of students witnessed another male student being harassed for wearing a pink shirt. Those students decided that everyone could wear a pink shirt to show their support, and so a cause was born. The very act of witnessing those students interrupting that bullying at that school inspired other students to get involved. And that story made its way to B.C.
In B.C., Christy Clark, at that time a host at CKNW radio, decided to spread the word, and so began a provincial movement.
Since then Pink Shirt Day has become a rallying point against what seems to be a relentless tide of new forms of bullying. To be sure, kids still get bullied for what they wear to school, and homophobia, despite a changing society, is still alive and well in a lot of places.
Since 2007 the Internet has spawned numerous new ways to ridicule and shame each other. “Trolls” as they are called spew venom in comment sections, on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. If you are young and get caught in the crossfire, the impact can be devastating. Heck, if you’re older and become the target of a nasty online campaign, the effects can be ugly.
And, to top it off, we are now seeing a resurgence of the “politically incorrect” rant. And let us be clear, “politically incorrect” is just another way of saying that hateful, prejudicial and ignorant remarks are OK as long as you preface those remarks by saying you are being politically incorrect. That phrase seems to offer some haters a cloak of protection. But it shouldn’t.
If you are slamming someone because of their gender, their race, their age, their job, their lack of job, their country of origin or any number of things, you’re not the Pink Shirt kind of person you may think you are.
To be sure, many of us have been bullies at some point in our lives. The pressure to conform in the hockey rink or the classroom has often felt impossible to avoid. There are few pure saints among us.
But we should all get points for trying to be better. Random acts of kindness, and pay-it-forward moments are the antidote to unkind remarks and nasty slogans. This week, you don’t have to wear a pink shirt to make your point, just smile and pass on some kindness in any number of simple human ways. It will make a big difference for all of us.