RADIA: Victim of bullies backs Pink Shirt Day
FACE TO FACE: Is Pink Shirt Day a worthwhile and helpful way to battle bullying?
Five years ago, when then-broadcaster Christy Clark and Port Coquitlam’s Dave Teixeira started Pink Shirt Day in British Columbia, I was thrilled. We finally had a day to raise awareness about the growing problem of bullying in our schools.
This issue is close to my heart because for a period of time in elementary school I was harassed by a group of my classmates. I was bullied.
I was what you call an easy target. It was the early ’80s and I was one of only three visible minorities in my class. I talked funny, kind of looked funny and to top it off I was the shortest kid in class.
I remember being called names like “Paki,” “midget,” and “monkey face” while my other classmates laughed. I remember dreading the end of weekends, not wanting to go back to what awaited me at school. I remember walking around by myself at recess and lunch with my head down hoping not to be noticed. I remember how alone and isolated I felt.
But I was one of the lucky ones. Aside from having to deal with some self-esteem issues in my later years, I made it through my experience of being bullied relatively unscathed.
Others haven’t been as fortunate.
Every Pink Shirt Day, I’m reminded of my friend Nasima Nastoh, whose son Hamed took his own life after he could no longer endure the insults and teasing he faced at school. Tragically, he threw himself off the Pattullo Bridge.
Unfortunately, there are too many of these types of stories. And that is why we need a Pink Shirt Day.
My colleague opposite suggests Pink Shirt Day is about bullying the bullies.
Certainly, schools need to play a role and punish the bullies to make sure they understand this behaviour is not appropriate. But Pink Shirt Day is about so much more.
The day is about giving educators, students, bullies and victims of bullies the awareness, knowledge and tools to end the cycle of persistent and pernicious harassment that occurs too many times in our school yards.
Maybe if they had Pink Shirt Day when I was in school, I wouldn’t have been bullied.
Maybe Hamed wouldn’t have.
I’ll certainly be wearing my pink shirt come Feb. 29.
Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.