I am not a fan of the whole idea of “tolerance”. I mean, I get the spirit of the campaign but as an English teacher and as a writer, I am just not a fan of the word choice at all.
To me, to “tolerate” someone connotes that I should endure them. That I should “bear” them. That I should recognize that I am superior to that person but, for the sake of not creating conflict, I should shut my trap, bite my tongue and suffer the shortcomings of this person’s inferiority and differences and just take the high road.
Tolerating black people sounds condescending if not racist.
Tolerating jews sounds bigoted and belittling.
Tolerating Asians, tolerating Hispanics, tolerating YOU… I mean really, who in the world wants to walk in the room and be made to feel as if everyone else is “tolerating” you?
And teaching kids to “tolerate” other kids seems as though we are missing a chance at striving for, if not ascertaining, more lofty goals.
Maybe we could teach recognition or validation or acceptance or empathy? I am not sure. But of all the words chosen, “tolerance” seems to me to have an Achilles heel.
As a teacher, should I “tolerate” my special needs students? Should I “tolerate” my low-income, minority parents? Should my students “tolerate” me because I am white?
Like I said, I completely get the spirit of the campaign and trust me, eradicating hate and intolerance would be a major step for my city, this country and out world.
But teaching people to merely tolerate others sounds, well… it sounds mere to me. When it comes to fractious ethnic and racial strife, asking folks to merely be tolerant of one another seems as if tolerance is a bar set too low.