When #PinkShirtDay is a (white)wash.

Today is Anti-Bullying Day. But when is bullying not just bullying? Our MAR Blogger, Jessica Sproat, shares some thoughts on when we need to take a harder look at the terminology we are using to describe acts of bullying.


white male wearing a pink shirt and sunglasses smiling with finger guns pointed in the air.

Without addressing the underlying systems that have spurred the need for the teachings of the “Be kind to everyone, be accepting of everyone” movement, children are not receiving the anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-oppression education they need to actually make system changes. Instead, it becomes another whitewashed solution that does not address any root causes.

Today is “International Anti-Bullying Day” AKA Pink Shirt Day; a day where students, staff, parents, business employees, childcare facilities, and those working in public offices spread a message of acceptance and anti-bullying. Pink shirts with messages of kindness are enthusiastically donned.


Anti-Bullying is an important concept and an important message to share. Nowadays, Pink Shirt Day is recognized around the world but had its beginnings in a small town in Canada.


The most well-known and publicized version of the day that started the movement goes like this:

A new student is bullied in class for wearing a pink shirt.

Two students decide to show support for this student and go purchase enough pink shirts for the class to wear and condemn bullying.


The lesser-known version of the story is:

A new student is bullied in class, not because of his shirt, but because other children believed him to be gay.


Often not discussed, while we are wearing our pink shirts and spreading messages of kindness to all, is the underlying reasons for many instances of bullying and WHO the individuals are that are most often the victim of bullying.


Let me just be clear to anyone who has a comment about the next few lines:


All bullying is unacceptable, and people of all walks of life and backgrounds can feel attacked, singled out, and unwelcome in school, community, and workplace settings...


...AND there are clear patterns of who these individuals are that are on the receiving end of bullying (in all its forms).


**Hint Hint - Racialized, Muslim, disabled and diversely-abled, and LGBTQ2S+ individuals, and those with physical appearances outside of what is considered the socially acceptable norm, are on the receiving end of bullying at a much higher rate than those who do conform to the “norm” (i.e. white, cis-gender, heteronormative, neurotypical, able-bodied, Christian).


In these instances we should really be calling these behaviours, these acts of violence, what they are: Racism, Islamophobia, Ableism, Transphobia, Homophobia, etc.


On the extreme end we sometimes hear of overt violent attacks but more commonly we hear of covert attacks, microaggressions, or passive-aggressive bullying, or gaslighting.


Without addressing the underlying systems that have spurred the need for the teachings of the “Be kind to everyone, be accepting of everyone” movement, children are not receiving the anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-oppression education they need to actually make system changes. Instead, it becomes another whitewashed solution that does not address any root causes.

For any anti-bullying movement to have a real, lasting, and widespread effect, both children and adults must be taught, and seek out information about, the oppression of the marginalized groups most commonly on the receiving end of bullying. They must #DoTheWorkStartingAtHome, all while wearing their pink shirts.



#AntiBullying #PinkShirtDay #PinkShirtDay2021 #Bullying #BullyingAwareness #StopBullying #BullyingPrevention #WordsMatter #Racism #Islamophobia #Ableism #Transphobia #Homophobia #Discrimination #Oppression #SystemicOppression #WhiteSupremacy


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