This was originally published at Missing Filter by Basic Pitch on June 19, 2017.
Words mean things.
tol·er·ance ˈtäl(ə)rəns noun
1. the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
“the tolerance of corruption”
synonyms: acceptance, toleration
Tolerance is supposed to be a good thing. I hear people use it to describe how not bigoted they are, how open they are to other cultures, how accepting they are of other people regardless of race, religion, income, gender, sexual identity, or any other possible difference. I have a problem with this. That is not what the word actually means.
When I am tolerating something, I usually feel that I am making some sacrifice in doing so. I tolerate bad traffic, crowded places, humid 90-degree weather, other people’s bad moods, allergies, and power outages. None of these things add to my life. I am, at best, inconvenienced by them, at worst enraged, anxious, or ill from them. These are feelings I would associate with a long line at the DMV, not feelings I would associate with my eagerness to learn from our society’s most vulnerable to guide my actions going forward in hopes of leaving this world a better, more just, safer, kinder place than I found it.
In my limited experience, those most eager to tell you how tolerant they are, are the same who will tell you in the next breath that all lives matter, not all men, or how they don’t understand why, if they’re allowed to live together, they want to be married. These people aren’t using some new, open-minded version of tolerance. They’re using the word as it has always been defined, they’re putting up with it at what they believe is great self-sacrifice.
I do not tolerate those most disenfranchised in our society. I am not giving anything up by knowing that they deserve the same liberties my privileged, white, cishet life has given me. I sacrifice nothing but the comfort that I haven’t earned by acknowledging that this society has abused them to uplift me.
I don’t tolerate them, I admire them and their ability to thrive under such hostile conditions. I fear for their safety in navigating this society that is built on their backs to ultimately destroy them. I respect them enough to listen, oppressors cannot solve oppression. It’s not enough, I know it’s not enough.