'Tolerance' implies you're having to put up with something bad

When I consider the word tolerate, I think of blood tests, going to the dentist or babysitting difficult children - not equality

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The Independent Online

I despise the word ‘tolerance’. It is increasingly used to describe the - certainly agreeable - trend of social equality.

The Oxford dictionary defines the word tolerate thusly: to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.” And: to “be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, toxin, or environmental condition) without adverse reaction.”

When someone uses this word to describe social acceptance among classes, races and religions, are they essentially saying that those who are a part of those groups are allowed to live peacefully?

Do we white, straight, British people allow black, Asian, gay and other so-called ‘minority groups’ to exist? Uh, no.

Do we white, straight, British people cope with continued subjection to minority groups? Uh, no.

A recent news story in which a religious teacher, Robert Haye, was suspended for making homophobic remarks to his class, came with quotes attributed to High Court judge Mr Justice King who said that the suspension would be upheld under a policy which was part of “modern British values of tolerance".

For Haye, who claimed that the way homosexual people lived was “disgusting” and a sin, perhaps tolerance is an appropriate word – but I will question whether this is a “British” value.

When I consider the word tolerate, I think of blood tests, I think of going to the dentist; routine injections; baby-sitting difficult children, perhaps. What kind of a person ‘tolerates’ living in the same country as those of different races, religions or sexual preference?

Following the Olympics last summer, the event was heralded as a Great British celebration of a multicultural society. Yet, in a quote to the Guardian, Matthew Goodwin of the Extremis Project, a group that monitors extremism and terrorism, said: “While we see further evidence of an emerging generation that is more tolerant towards – and accepting of – immigration and diversity…”

Well, great, fellow young people, thanks for upholding the racial equality side of things – but there’s that word ‘tolerant’ again. Are young people really tolerant? No. Young people are increasingly accepting of equality among human beings – a trend I can only hope continues.

His quote came as a result of a survey by YouGov which was researching the potential popularity of far-right political parties.

However, Goodwin did continue: “there remains clear potential for a party that … promises to halt immigration, reduce the number of Muslims and prioritise traditional British values over other cultures.”

My problem in this particular instance is not the lack of equality given to those of different backgrounds but to the words people use to tar the nation with. For the most part, I think we as a nation accept everyone as an equal – especially in the younger generation.

But can we just stop using the word ‘tolerate’? I do not tolerate anyone based on the colour of their skin or who they go to bed with – I accept them as equal. So let’s not consider ‘tolerance’ as a “British value,” let’s consider social equality among all as THE British value.

So forgive us, bigots, for we have refused you the right to offensively quip at the nearest black person. For, let’s not forget, if you were to do so, the rest of us would have to tolerate your ignorance.