February 28, a day like any other day; however, as I walked into the school today, I was overwhelmed by a sea of pink. Boys and girls alike were proudly decked out in pink T-shirts, standing in solidarity against bullying!
You’ve done it; we’ve all done it. And as it’s happening you feel terrible and after it stops, you feel even worse. You feel like you could have and should have done something.
You have been a bystander.
The thing about bystanders is that you feel like you are alone, you feel powerless, but chances are there are lots of people that feel the exact same way that you do. And all it takes is one courageous person to stand up and say, “NO! This isn’t right!”
This is exactly what happened on the first day of school at Central Kings Rural High School in the small community of Cambridge, Nova Scotia when a boy was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Two grade 12 boys decided enough was enough and went out, bought 50 pink shirts and passed them around the school.
The thing is, it would have been easy for them to just mumble something under their breath or to vent about it to one of their friends, but they didn’t. They did something. They took the power away from the bully, for when we stand together, we are more powerful than if we stand alone.
I am going to leave you with a favourite quote of mine, which captures the importance of not being a bystander and standing in solidarity with people being persecuted:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
~ Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
So, I leaned over to student and said, “Can I ask you a question?” He stammered as if being awoken from a deep sleep of concentration, “I’m on question 7.”
“No, no no.” I replied with a laugh, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure” he responded with a sheepish smile.
“What does your shirt say?”
“Oh.” he replied, “Fear is not an option! Stand together and stop bullying!”
Cameron May is a substitute teacher with Rocky View School Division.
Follow and share ideas with him @elbow_patch.