On this 5th day of January in the year 2015, I am disappointed, but not about my personal aspirations for the New Year. I am very optimistic in that regard. But on the subject of racism, I am not so optimistic and for a variety of reasons.
While driving home from work one evening in the last days of 2014, the word, “tolerance” was mentioned on an NPR radio broadcast that I was listening to. Whenever I hear a word that resonates for longer than the usual milliseconds of time that it takes for one word to melt into another during conversation, I began to dissect its meaning and contextual usage.
Of course, there are many contexts with which to interject the word tolerance. In an article from the Right Wing blog CNSNews.com, written by a Christian pastor by the name of Michael P. Orsi, tolerance is described as an implication of “no measurable standard of right or wrong at worst, and at best, no right or obligation to correct those in error” (Orsi, Michael P., , “Three Dirty Words: Tolerance, Diversity and Welcoming,” CNSNews.com, 2012).
I certainly do not agree with the Reverend Orsi’s assessment of the word and his own implications. He makes the case that by “tolerating” people of difference, they are somehow condoning what he considers the wrong in society and relinquishing the right to “correct those in error.” And of course, he and everything he stands for is the right in society.
Within the system of White Supremacy, the lower caste Dominant Class is being asked to tolerate everyone who doesn’t look like them by the same people who are part of the upper caste Dominant Class.
No wonder that some white people abhor the word tolerance today with that explanation held as belief. But how does the dictionary of American English define the word “tolerance?” According to Dictionary.com, there are 4 applicable definitions for the word:
1. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one's own.
3. Interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
4. The act or capacity of enduring; endurance.
In 2 of the 4 definitions, the word “Permissive” is used. The word has its
origins in the 14th and 15th centuries and first recorded in that sense in the 1530s. In 1765, it was used with the implication of “free from bigotry or severity,” when used within the context of people and their tolerance of others. From 1868 it meant an “allowable amount of variation,” and in 1875 it was recorded in the physiological sense as the “ability to take large doses.”
Tolerance is a word which says that white people should learn to be “permissive,” to “allow for an amount of variation,” and to “permit themselves to behave in a manner free from bigotry or severity.”
Now do you understand?
This means any person of color or difference should be provided with an implied tolerance by the white supremacist system in this country while the same system of racism tells white people they must learn how to provide such tolerance.
Here’s my problem with this whole thing. In 2015, I am not interested in being “tolerated” by anyone. Period. I don’t want permission to be a part of a racist society. How can a racist society diffuse the nature of white supremacy/racism while at the same time, having the effect of embracing such white supremacy by supposedly giving people permission to be “wrong,” in their society, and then asking the dominant culture to allow it, even in the midst of their supposed supremacy and rightness?
In 2015 or any year, for that matter, there should be no need for anyone to learn how to behave in a manner free from bigotry or severity, except for the fact that we are still locked firmly into a racist system which requires a deprogramming, as it were. Moreover, people of color and of difference have had to tolerate hatred and inequality in this country for far too long, therefore to continue to imply tolerance by us in any form in this system is absurd.
I am not tolerating and I am not going to be tolerated anymore as long as we are in this present system. Someone will have to come up with another word with implications that resonate with the end of racism and white supremacy in America.
Now that I would tolerate.