Acceptance, not tolerance
Letter to the Editor | Monday, February 25, 2008
Racism is a reality that will never be completely extinguished as long as differences among people exist in society. What we can strive for, however, is acceptance through understanding. Acceptance, not tolerance. For to merely “tolerate” someone different carries the implication that we agree to live side-by-side without strife because it is “the right thing to do.” But we must look beyond what we have been taught in the classroom about the ideal of equality and examine what it truly means to achieve this ideal.
Equality is not the status quo; it is an uncommon balanced state that is only achievable through combined effort and individual commitment. Each individual on this campus must care enough to question his or her subconscious prejudices, and reach out to learn about others outside of his or her comfort zone in small, but significant, ways on a daily basis. Sadness and anger are humane and important reactions of those who have been exposed to the depth, history and continuing reality of racism.
For instance, Irving Howe commended the novel “Native Son,” because “Wright forced his readers to acknowledge his anger, and in that way, if none other, he wrested for himself a sense of dignity as a man. He forced his readers to confront the disease of our culture, and to one of its most terrifying symptoms he gave the name of Bigger Thomas.” But anger is useless if it is not backed by the strength and conviction needed to accomplish change; and change doesn’t always happen in loud movements. There is no reason to remain heartbroken, for as long as the students at Notre Dame really are the good-hearted and willing people that I have had the fortune to encounter in the past few months, there is every reason to believe that we can come closer to the delicate balance of equality, and remain distinct and true to our backgrounds in the process.