Tolerance is a word often used in conjunction with culture, lifestyle choices, beliefs and traditions. The intent is to make people aware of how they are acting toward others who are different and encourage them to change their behavior. Every year on November 16, since 1996, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day for Tolerance directing its attention to educational establishments and the general public.
At the 2009 celebrations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Tolerance does not mean indifference or a grudging acceptance of others. It is a way of life based on mutual understanding and respect for others, and on the belief that global diversity is to be embraced, not feared.”
This might be enough for some, but I would argue that it is not the best word to use when trying to change interaction among people. Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as
1) capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina 2) a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own b : the act of allowing something : toleration
I wholeheartedly believe that our choice of words to express ourselves influences our opinions and approach to aspects of life. Differences in cultures, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions are often used as the reasons for hateful acts and speech as well as a means of finding a scapegoat or culprit for a problem. From a young age, people need to be taught and shown that life can be lived in a myriad of ways.
Reading the above definition makes it sound as if interacting with others is a hard task (enduring pain or hardship) and one that requires a great effort. It makes me think of something negative or undesirable, but at the same time something that is expected in society. The person exercising tolerance gives the impression of superiority by allowing the (insert group here) to interact with him/ her or to even exist.
I think the intention of those who support tolerance is sincere, but I believe the words should be changed. The path, instead, should be paved with the desire to learn about, explore, understand, experience, embrace, encourage and respect people of different cultures, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions. In order to create a positive and welcoming world positive and welcoming words should be used. Once we change the words we use, we can change the way we approach an issue.
Or is it enough that immigrants (whether “legal” or not), students, homosexuals, women or just you are merely tolerated?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.