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The paradox that is tolerance

In my last article I discussed racism and how ignoring racist comments from your loved ones (any loved ones - coworkers, friends, family, etc) isn't healthy for your relationship in the long run. The comments on my article were mostly favorable to what I had written. Other comments I have received elsewhere were not. Some seem to think that I was condemning the use of stereotypes and even seemed to take to heart my reference to racism being idiotic.

Even though the purpose of this article lies slightly to the side of this, I'm going to begin by clarifying a few things in regards to my previous article.

  1. Racism and stereotyping are not always the same thing.
  2. Racism is not always violent. However, it's very meaning has changed from the belief that people are different based on their "race" to the belief that a certain group or groups are inferior based on their "race." Racism, at this point in time, is synonymous with bigotry.
  3. Everyone uses stereotypes. It is hard wired into our brains. There is too much information in the world for the brain to be able to process it all so the brain has developed the strategy of placing that information into different boxes based on previous experiences. Doing so allows us to react to situations faster for the purpose of self-preservation.
  4. Affirmative Action is crap.
  5. If you want a good example of all of this, check out the movie Crash. The entire movie shows the repercussions of racism (both through bigotry and stereotyping), classism, agism, and several other isms. The characters played by Ludacris and Sandra Bullock are especially pertinent. Especially in this scene and this scene.

And now on to my actual article.

In an ideal world, we were all taught tolerance as children. Of course, I know that's not actually the case, but it would be great if it were. Even within tolerance there is a problem though. The great paradox of tolerance lies in the question of just how tolerant one should be. defines tolerance as "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own" and further states that it is a "freedom from bigotry."

The website Big Think has a great article about why tolerance is a paradox. The basics are this: Tolerance is a concept that acts upon itself; in order to be truly tolerant, one must tolerate even intolerance; if one speaks out against intolerance, they then become intolerant as well. So, to what extent should we be tolerant?

I know that no one out there has all of the same opinions that I do. Not even my amazingly wonderful boyfriend feels the same way I do about every little thing. And I'm glad for that. The world would be a mighty boring place if everyone had the same thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. I also recognize that within those beliefs a fundamental right and wrong will present itself. Tolerance in general comes in to play when you see the differences in opinion and accept them. The paradox of tolerance enters with the fundamental rights and wrongs.

When someone's differing opinion travels into your belief of what is wrong, what are you supposed to do? Furthermore, what happens when it is your opinion that falls squarely into someone else's belief of what is wrong?

Tolerance tells you to accept even if you disapprove of this opinion. I can accept that some of my friends may dislike a certain group of people. I do not, however, want to listen to this dislike every time I'm with these friends. When I stated in my last article that it is unhealthy to ignore racism within your relationship, I in no way expect anyone to go out and try to change people's minds. You cannot make someone with racist beliefs a non-racist. It won't happen. You can, however, let that person know you don't appreciate the jokes.

If the relationship is important to you, it's likely you'll be around them a lot...and if those jokes bother you, you're going to start resenting them. If you never say anything about it, you only have yourself to blame. However, if you do let the person in on the fact that you're bothered, then it puts the ball in their court. If your relationship is important to them as well, they'll make an effort to not make such jokes around you. It's that simple.

In the same light, if one of your friends or family members were to approach you about one of your favorite joking habits, what would you do? I'd honestly be offended. At first any way...after I had a while to cool down, I'd want to evaluate how important that relationship is to me. There are many people I'd hold my tongue for if requested. There are tons I would not.


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