I don’t like wearing a pink shirt on Pink Shirt Day.
Don’t get me wrong, when years ago Nova Scotia students David Shephard and Travis Price decided to show a school bully they can wear whatever they want and he can’t get away with bullying anyone…they were very successful. What they did was fantastic and if everyone did something similar when a bully tried to get his/her way, we’d be on a very different planet.
But now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon, with media and other corporations putting up big banners and encouraging everyone to wear pink. I don’t bother.
I would in an instant if my “actions” actually did something (how tough is it to wear a certain colour shirt once a year?). If I were to use my pink shirt to go up to someone who was giving me trouble or calling me names, I’d do it in a heartbeat. That would be a wonderful use of wearing a pink shirt and it was very successful when David and Travis rallied many friends from Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge, Nova Scotia wore pink to show the bully that not only “homosexuals” wear pink.
Somehow, encouraging people to wear pink shirts and to talk about bullying, for one particular day of the year is magically supposed to do something. But words without actions are meaningless. And I mean truly meaningless because a lot of time, money and resources may be put into a day that doesn’t tell us anything new. Here’s the standard script:
- Stand up to a bully
- Talk to someone if you are being bullying
- Speak up if you see others being bullied
Well, that pretty much covers it and these are wonderful and valid actions to take. But I’d be surprised if anyone over the age of 6 hasn’t heard some version of this…yet bullies still persist with kids and adults still afraid to speak up. Know why?
- The fear of a bully is greater than our belief that something will be done
- Bullies prosper in young age and in old age…just look at some of the people leading the government of Canada (or ask a Canadian government scientist)
- Despite all the protections people are promised for speaking up, we see many examples where no protections are truly given and people can’t afford to lose a job or opportunity.
Yesterday was pink shirt day and if we want to celebrate the actions of two students who took a stand, I’m all for it. But it will take more actions like theirs, not just the symbolic stuff that has followed, to make real change. Know what else happened yesterday?
U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a statue commemorating Rosa Parks, the African American woman who wouldn’t give up her seat for a white passenger. Her actions lead to her arrest, but also to the ruling segregated buses were unconstitutional in the U.S.. In the process, she lost her job and lived most of her life in obscurity as she had to move up north to get any kind of job. Now talk about standing up to bullies.
Or yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Saskatchewan’s Human Rights provisions against hate crimes were in fact constitutional. Despite a tsunami of opposition from every right wing mouth piece, James Komar, Brendan Wallace, Guy Taylor and Kathy Hamre, with the complete support of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, took William Whatcott to Human Rights saying his disgusting pamphlets incited hatred against gays and lesbians. (By the way, many civil libertarians also wanted the hate provisions struck down. I often agree with them, but not on this one.)
The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court was penned by Justice Marshall Rothstein. He wrote:
“Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing emotional distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact. If a group of people are considered inferior, sub-human, or lawless, it is easier to justify denying the group and its members equal rights or status…As the majority becomes desensitized by the effects of hate speech, the concern is that some members of society will demonstrate their rejection of the vulnerable group through conduct. Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable groups. These attacks can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.”
You want, guts? You want to stand up to bullies? How about sticking your neck out so far that you have hate groups all over the world saying vile things about you. These four did, along with many supporters. Mr. Whatcott – someone who says he used to be homosexual – will likely continue saying the horrible things and there will be plenty of pressure on the Saskatchewan government to change the law. Hopefully the government won’t cave and hopefully Mr. Whatcott will be thrown in jail if keeps saying and writing his dangerous filth. Say what you want…but from jail if it's a criminal offense.
If you want to wear pink, go ahead. But while you’re wearing pink, stand up to someone who’s being a bully. When that happens, I’d be happy to support pink shirt day. One last quote from David Shepherd, I found on a CBC website. It was in response to the fact that their pink shirt campaign shut up the bullies:
"If you can get more people against them … to show that we're not going to put up with it and support each other, then they're not as big as a group as they think are," he says.
Wise words for such a young man.
This blog: http://www.humanrightseachday.com/
My website: http://www.stephenhammond.ca
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Stephen Hammond, B.A., LL.B., CSP, is a lawyer-turned professional speaker. He’s written two books, Managing Human Rights at Work: 101 practical tips to prevent human rights disasters and Steps in the Rights Direction: 365 human rights celebrations and tragedies that inspired Canada and the world. Managing Human Rights at Work can be purchased on his website www.StephenHammond.ca
copyright - Stephen Hammond - Why I didn't wear a pink shirt