Today, high school students throughout the city will be decked out in pink, a continuing show of solidarity against bullying.
The movement began in the Maritimes in 2007. That’s where a Grade 9 boy was roughed up for wearing a pink polo shirt on his first day of school.
In response, David Shepherd and Travis Price, a couple of Grade 12 students attending the school, went to a nearby discount shop and bought 50 pink shirts and distributed them to their friends.
The next day, the school was awash in pink as hundreds of youth backed up that one Grade 9 student.
The bullying stopped.
It was a uniquely humane gesture on the part of the students, who banded together to help a stranger.
It was simple. And powerful, and the idea quickly spread to schools across the continent.
Today, students and other people throughout Whitehorse will participate in the Be the Change (Sea of Pink) movement.
The goal is to remind people to stand up against bullying in the territory’s schools, workplaces and homes. Businesses (listed below) have joined the movement, offering discounts to people who show up wearing pink.
The whole affair has begun to assume the air of a gleeful St. Patrick’s Day.
But it’s also important to remember why the whole movement began, and to see that bullying is alive and well throughout society.
It remains a very serious issue. And it does affect everyone.
There are plenty of public
examples where people use their strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker, which is the very definition of bullying.
Several members of the civil service refused to attend Willard Phelps’ political rally this week because they feared for their jobs. That fear stems from bullying.
You might remember that John Edzerza quit the Yukon Party cabinet because of abusive, bullying behaviour on the part of his colleague, Premier Dennis Fentie.
Edzerza has since rejoined caucus and reconciled with Fentie, but that isn’t as odd as it might seem. It echoes behaviour in spousal-abuse cases, where couples come back together after a cooling-off period. This is all too common. It can take four, five or six separate incidents before a bullied and abused spouse finally gathers the courage to leave for good.
And earlier this year, deputy minister of Environment Kelvin Leary was subjected to an irate phone call by Fentie, which intimidated him enough that he ordered his department’s important evaluation of the Peel Watershed region gutted.
And local sports teams still engage in hazing rituals, bullying tacitly supported by some parents as camaraderie-building exercises.
If this is how some parents and our elected leaders behave, you can only imagine how prevalent bullying is within the rest of society.
Many believe it only exists in schools. But that’s just where it begins. And bullying in the workplace is far more sinister; the potential for damage – financial, psychological – is far greater.
Our youth, who seem more attuned to it, are willing to express their opposition to it by wearing pink. The rest of society is starting to sign on.
But the fashion serves merely as a reminder. That’s the easy part.
Rooting out bullying in society is no small task.
And there’s only one way to fight it – you have to stand up to it. Every day. Wherever you find it. (Richard Mostyn)
The businesses supporting this year’s Sea of Pink event are Chocolate Claim, Sequels, Seasons, Hello Gorgeous Hair Salon, Mac’s Fireweed, Midnight Sun Gifts, Board Stiff, Sports Life, Baked, Coast Mountain, Bent Spoon, Sportees and Java Connection.