Elevate Difference

Tolerant Oppression: Why Promoting Tolerance Undermines Our Quest for Equality and What We Should Do Instead

On the surface, tolerance seems like an innocuous concept. We’ve heard it before in relation to diversity, acceptance, and other key words that denote something positive. However, a deeper look into the idea reveals a mess of conflicting messages and confusion. For those who have never considered the concept of tolerance from this perspective before, Dr. Scott Hampton provides a handbook of sorts that critically assesses tolerance. Each of the 110 mini-chapters works to debunk the idea that tolerance is enough in order to achieve harmony.

Hampton uses quotes from respected leaders and a variety of exercises to illustrate and demonstrate his points, making this a light and quick read. In fact, its format makes it a useful teaching tool for those looking to challenge their own or others’ views on tolerance. The point is driven home all throughout, but the exercises allow for readers to reach their own conclusions as well.

To explain how tolerance simply isn’t enough, Hampton draws on a variety of controversial and hot button issues such as sexism, suicide, human trafficking, and more. The moral and ethical arguments surrounding these issues serve to support his points and give him an opportunity to present ideas such as, “Tolerance is politically correct hatred.” He suggests alternatives to tolerance like acceptance, understanding, and respect, because these words are less likely to be confused and more accurately describe what a person typically means when they say tolerance.

Many who are part of traditionally oppressed groups will see the logic to Hampton’s claims. Being tolerated isn’t enough, and it only serves to further enforce differences. Tolerance perpetuates the idea that one group or person is superior to another rather than challenging that very idea. On one hand, this might seem like a simple case of bad word choice, but given the fact that many people and organizations hold tolerance up as the goal or hoped-for end result, it is worthwhile to take a moment to identify what we truly want (justice, equality, etc.) and how we might better achieve it.

Written by: Shana Mattson, January 29th 2011

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.