Inspired by Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price, a couple of astute and compassionate kids in Nova Scotia, Pink Shirt Day was initially a protest of wearing pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied for his style preferences.
This is exactly the sort of behaviour most of the parents I know would like to see in their children. However, it’s necessary to peel back the layers of this onion to see what is amiss here.
Pink Shirt Day has its heart in the right place. But David and Travis — perhaps two of the most caring boys that Central Kings Rural High School may ever know — didn’t get that way by weak displays of encouragement foisted upon them by well-intentioned student councils and media outlets. They have grown into heart-centred young men because — and I’ll go out on a limb here, not knowing their families — they were raised by parents who taught them to treat others with kindness and respect. And they did this by modelling it for their children, not by wearing certain pieces of clothing, plastering clichéd slogans on their bedroom walls, or preaching.
The original Pink Shirt Day, before it was known as such, worked because it touched the hearts of those directly involved. We emulate it because we can relate to the story, but there is so much more to it. We must — as Gandhi said — “BE the change you wish to see in the world.”
How often do you see adults driving and cussing out others on the road? Adults who push their way to the front of the line, or jockey for better position, behaving as though they have a protective bubble surrounding them? Adults who fail or refuse to make eye contact in public when doing something thoughtless or irresponsible as though that makes them immune to the repercussions of their behaviour?
And how many times do you see this when children are in tow, be it in the backseat or being pulled along by the hand?
I’ve witnessed it more times that I can say and it is one of the most frustrating things I see parents do. They walk around, being adult bullies, with no accountability for their actions.
They shout at their television sets and video game characters. They talk about other parents, a neighbour, and even a child’s teacher with disrespect, even disdain. They question people’s choices, not through inquiry, but through condemnation and insult.
Wearing pink shirts en masse one day out of the year isn’t going to change that. Kids won’t stop “bullying” behaviour until we stop teaching it to them.