Friday, May 26, 2006

Is ‘Tolerance’ a shovel to bury racist sentiment?

I don’t usually indulge in semantics, but with respect to tolerance I believe the word affects behaviour.

Here in the UK there is often talk about how ‘tolerant’ the Brits are of ethnic minorities. I was just reading a story regarding the plans FIFA has to clamp down on racism at the World Club and the article exhorted England fans to exhibit their tolerance.

This pisses me off. To tolerate something says to me that in spite of the unpleasant nature of the thing, you, as the superior party will magnanimously put up with it.

I checked the meaning of the word in the dictionary and I got several versions:

To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit.
To recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others).
To put up with; endure.
Medicine. To have tolerance for (a substance or pathogen).

Fair enough if the British use meaning #1, but in practice anyone with a brain can see most don’t. They adopt the general meaning or meaning # 2; they ‘put up with’ people who aren’t like them.

The general meaning ‘To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit’ assumes that non whites have to be ‘permitted’ exist in a predominantly white country. This is ridiculous but it is the attitude you get from many white British people. It’s the attitude that is the pre-cursor to the oft repeated comment ‘Why don’t you go back to where you came from,’ i.e. we have been permitted to live in the UK, us being here has nothing to do with the rights of birth or the contribution being made to the economy through work, tax paying and social volunteering.

What I want from the endemic everyday racist (I’m not talking BNP or neo Nazis now – they’re often beyond redemption) is for them to embrace ‘tolerance’ according to meaning number 1 above. I want them to recognise that non-whites are fully fledged human beings with all that goes along with that. I want them to recognise that some of us who are not only a different colour but may have been brought up in a different culture, are just as deserving of respect as they are – that difference does not mean inferiority. I want them to dig deep (for many they’d have to dig incredibly deep) and find some intelligence and then use it. An understanding and respect of other people’s culture and beliefs does not mean agreement with – and those of us who are of different cultures and skin colours know this. For example, either read the Bible and talk to Christians or read the Koran and talk to Muslims to get an understanding of what they are about or refrain from making judgements based on ignorance. Choose between becoming informed or shutting the hell up.

For the over eager apologists also, I say the same thing. Use your brains and if you haven’t got any, resurrect them. Don’t do things like abolishing all signs of Christmas because you think it’ll offend the Muslims – even though you’ve never asked a Muslim’s opinion on the matter.

For centuries non white people have had to tolerate white people and Western culture and we have done so in both senses of the words. Because for the most part white western cultures have dominated ours we have had no choice. But we have also on a grand scale tolerated white western culture in the1st sense of the word – we have a deep understanding of white western world and a respect for many aspects. And we don’t go around in a false reality treating white people oddly because of some imagined characteristics we have ascribed to them.

Some time ago some well know sporting figure got into serous trouble for berating a black player in a racial way – I think he called him a black bast…d or something. This has happened many times with different people and the response is always the same. They apologise for saying it and apologise for offending back people and basically say they didn’t mean it, they aren’t racist, some of my best friends are black . .. .you get the gist.

This is rubbish and a lie. Let’s say you are angry with a particular person, very angry, what’s the likelihood you would castigate him by yelling ‘You blasted paedophile you!’ unless of course you felt he was one? It wouldn’t come out I tell you because you wouldn’t have believed such a thing. You might call him a number of rude names, might swear a bit but you wouldn’t say that.

White people, who ‘in a moment of pique’ racially abuse people are racists – they’ve just been keeping those sentiments buried beneath layers of’ tolerance.’

They need to own up to the fact that their sentiments are not offensive to black people but are irrational, unintelligent, wrong and anti human and therefore should be offensive to any well meaning person. And if they are interested in bettering themselves as human beings they need to root out their racist feelings.

Get to know people to find out what they are about. And the only way you can do this is to spend some time with them. Only then can you truly recognise and respect them and begin to root out racism. The non-racist white people I know are intelligent and spend time with people who are not like themselves and really take an interest in them.

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