In light of recent events on our campus and the current state of our country as a whole, it seems like everyone is aggressively preaching tolerance and dubbing it as the one true solution that will bring our nation back together. Tolerance is a great concept, don’t get us wrong, but it’s not what America needs now in terms of an all-inclusive solution. What America needs is an increase in kindness and a boost in action.
By it’s very definition, tolerance does not demand action. In fact, it demands a lack of action. When you are tolerant, it doesn’t mean you accept other people for who they are, it just means you don’t persecute them for being different. When we are tolerant, we don’t work toward eradicating feelings of racism or bigotry, we just work to hide it.
Consider this example. When you were younger, maybe in elementary or middle school, you probably had a close-knit group of friends. You probably also had one kid in your class who everyone deemed “weird.” You could have even been that kid. Despite the unspoken label your classmates placed on this individual, you, out of the kindness of your heart, might have still let them hang around you and your friends because you felt bad. In other words, you tolerated them.
They’d receive an obligatory birthday party invitation because your mom said you couldn’t leave them out. You’d allow them to sit with you at lunch when they came up to the table and asked because you didn’t want to be mean.
You didn’t go out of your way to exclude them, and you never bullied them. But did you make much of an effort to be their friend or be nice to them? Chances are, you didn’t. Chances are, no one talked to this kid who everyone painted the oddball. Chances are, they weren’t treated like everyone else, and chances are, they noticed. But hey, you weren’t mean to them, so at least you were being tolerant, right?
This example is a universal one which most people can relate to. Now consider this on a much larger scale. A black person at the movies whom no one will sit next to. An openly gay college classmate who never gets called on when they raise their hand in class. A female co-worker who is constantly spoken over in meetings. All of these examples play out in the same way as the kid you tolerated when you were younger. An absence of malice does not equal kindness, just tolerance.
Tolerance is not a solution, it’s merely one component to a much larger and necessary movement we should be working toward. Our country is at a point where pretending racism and prejudice don’t exist is not enough. Our country is at a point where passively allowing others to be different from you while internalizing your hatred behind closed doors is not enough. Our country has gotten to a point where our minority groups deserve an apology. They deserve to be treated as equals and lifted up as much as white middle-class Americans. They deserve more than to be simply tolerated.
America does not need people to be tolerant, we need people to be kind, inclusive and fair. We need people to start taking action and standing up for those who we have oppressed or ignored over the years as we tolerated them.
We urge you, dear reader, to re-evaluate the ways you accept those around you. Do you really treat those who are different from you the same way you would anyone else? Are you doing what you can to create an inclusive America, or are you choosing the passive route of tolerance?