Intolerance: It’s not just racial anymore
How is it that so many of us preach tolerance, we celebrate “multi-cultural” living, we talk up unity and yet our children’s actions in schools, sports and in general prove over and over again that many of our kids are intolerant?Anytime that a child ridicules another child because they are different in any way is intolerance hard at work. Long ago when you thought of intolerance you thought of race. Today our children are intolerant of differences such as personality, style, interests or just plain individuality. Call it “kids stuff” if you will. Intolerance is the reality. It is our responsibility to teach our children what it truly means to be tolerant? Being tolerant does not mean that you have to embrace everyone that is different from you nor does it mean that you have to be thrilled about a personality that seems so far from your own. Being tolerant does not mean that you can’t be curious or even fearful of someone that seems so unlike you? In my opinion, teaching children to “live” tolerance is to teach them that all of those feelings are normal but that they must never make you feel superior or inferiors to others. Those feelings should never lead to being disrespectful to another human being. If we can not teach our children to be kind yet remain true to themselves, we have failed. We teach our children to eat, to walk and to talk by repetition and example. Is it too much to ask to do the same in areas of equal or more importance? Are we so sure that our own actions model the things that we hope to teach our children? Do we truly know who our children choose to be around others who are different from them in any way? Do we reinforce to our children that to be kind only means to rise above that which scares you? Wouldn’t it be nice if our family trips, to exotic places where visiting with people with unlike skin and different cultures, were enough to teach us how to tolerate difference as a way of life? One would think that lessons about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, the Holocaust or the American Indians (to name a few) would lead us to peaceful co existence. Progress we’ve made but clearly, we still do not grasp the concept of true tolerance. Sadly, our children suffer. When intolerant behavior is overlooked in a child it then becomes condoned. Condoned intolerance leads to hurt, anger, violence and hate. To ignore intolerance is ignorance. In today’s world, it is not unrealistic for a disgruntled child to withdraw, withhold and with vengeance take life. In today’s world it is time to rethink the actions that we as adults are quick to label as “kids being kids”. A tolerant life is a life worth living, a life worth giving our children.
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