I've been trying to articulate my hesitation about Anti-Bullying and Pink Shirt Day and what it comes down to is that I don't think I really am anti-bullying. Which sounds absurd, but the thing is that I don't see the point. ("Bullies! I hate 'em! If I see one, I'm going to....") Bullying exists. Bullies exist and wearing pink is not going to scare them away.
What I am is Pro-Empathy. Let's have a pro-empathy day. Let's encourage our kids to watch out for their friends and to watch out for the kids that aren't their friends too, because somebody has to. Let's encourage them to stand up and not to be a bystander.
Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who recently took her own life in response to cyberbullying following on a sexual assault, apparently made a number of plea for help type posts on her Facebook. In one she quoted Martin Luther King, Junior: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." In a very sad story, this to me was one of the sadder elements.
Let's do our best to teach our kids how to be good friends to others. When we talk about Anti-Bullying, I don't think that any of us ever believe that one of our kids could be the bully.
I've posted before about empathy and I've written a little about the link that seems to me to exist between reading fiction and empathy. Since this is a blog about reading and about children's books, I'd like to bring this back on topic by recommending once again an excellent YA novel by Susin Nielsen called The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. It's an intelligent, funny novel in which a family faces the unimaginable when one of their own goes from victim to instigator of violence. (And really, are bullies born or made?)
If, as parents, we're not capable of imagining our children as the bully then perhaps we can do them a service by helping them to imagine what it is like to be one of the victims of bullying. Perhaps this is the way to make a difference. And really, apart from not liking pink, I've nothing against this campaign. I just think that there's a lot more we need to do. Wear pink ... stop bullying? If only.