Diversity in the 21st Century: Exploring the limits of Respect & Tolerance

The bell rang. It was time for recess. Hanna’s second-grade class stormed through the hallway and towards the playing field while Hanna carefully tapped her white cane. As soon as she made her way outside, Hanna overheard her name being shouted from a distance. It was a group of her classmates awaiting her to join their tag-team.”

Human beings were not born intolerant. If you observe young children play in a schoolyard, you would realize that they neither care for the color of someone’s skin, their gender, nor the way in which they are dressed.

They see nothing other than a playmate. Often, as we get older, we are taught to embrace the differences around us. For some, however, these differences may start to become a challenge.

People will relate easily to those who are like themselves, but they may struggle with those who are different. Microsoft® Encarta® Dictionaries 2007 describes “Respect” as paying due attention to and refraining from violating someone or something.


The dictionary then went on to define “Tolerance” as accepting the differing views of people while demonstrating fairness towards those who hold these views; It is enduring hardship while putting up with someone or something found irritating or otherwise unpleasant.

Children don't care about raceWe now live in a world of seemingly infinite diversity- Exhibiting bewildering variation in biological, cultural and environmental aspects. In this age where electronic media has drawn us closer into what is called a global-village, people of different backgrounds, ethnicity, cultures, political affiliations, and religions are co-existing; establishing a world vast on multi-culture and diversity. It is on this basis, developing the spirit of respect and tolerance in all spheres of life have become rather crucial in fostering peace, love, harmony and affection from the smallest unit up to the highest unit of society. We have seen considerable incidents in recent history where, because of lack of tolerance, people have been attacked exclusively because of their faith, sexual preference, and even their communities. For it is only within the boundaries of respect, understanding and mutual goodness, will the benefits of globalization ever prevail.

Visualize being in a shoe where you are stepped on and scorned solely for a path you have embarked on. Now imagine existing as a homosexual in such a heterosexual world… Think of how fearful, resented and restricted these persons have become in finding a mate of their ‘kind.’ Exactly how should one express their sentiments to another without being blatantly cast upon as a blasphemy? As homophobic as this nation (Jamaica) is, I yearn to witness the epoch when a self-proclaimed homosexual is civilly rejected by a heterosexual due to sexuality discrepancies. It has now become a case, where the minds of our youths are so plagued with arrogance and ignorance, that the popular statement of a particular local song “Battyman fi dead… (Shot up dem—)” are literally being acted out within society! Lack of tolerance is what leads to fighting and violence, consequently destroying security and social order. For it is when people fail in their arguments they become intolerant, subsequently utilizing aggression to support their point-of-view. It is this attitude which yields the statement: “Intolerance is the first sign of inadequate education, as an ill-educated person is believed to behave with arrogance and impatience, whereas one with a profound education breeds humility” (Solzhenitsyn, n.d.)
Why must it then remain such a challenge to advocate opinions in a refined manner whenever confrontations arise? Exactly why should provocative terms be but a tongue-slip away? Is it even found within human nature to uphold our sensibilities and not reject those who are not like us? Others failing to do things in a traditional way do not necessarily mean they are in the wrong! Since each individual is entitled to a view, let us be reminded that having an opinion is like owning a pair of shoe: Find one which fits you, but do not make me wear your shoes (Carlin, n.d)
Care should further be taken in not mistaking tolerance with that of apathy, indulgence, or condescension but let it be understood by definition, that one should never feel compel to partake in activities which may compromise personal principles neither must it insinuate behaviors which are morally or ethically wrong. Instead, respect must stand alongside tolerance in its highest glory as a fundamental Human Right. When practicing this universal law, it should be presented from both sides and a line of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” ought to be drawn between parties as it pertains to behavior. However, let it be a rule of thumb to keep emotions under control if one decides to speak immediately, while remaining assertive, as anger or frustration often make others defensive.

The world is full of diversity, and that is the beauty of our universe. If there had not been multiplicity, the world would appear unattractive, and void of competition. May the sentiments and ideologies of our fellow beings not be violated but rather, acknowledged. It needs to be penetrated within the human psyche that the sole laws of the land will never be sufficient at securing freedom of expression, thus requiring every man to become cognizant of another’s autonomy without issuing a penalty. We are all formed of frailty and error so no matter how different another may seem, the reality is we all share the common bond of humanity. Our emotions and life experiences is what binds us together, and we often have far more in common with each other than what appears; for with an attitude of inclusion, a world of possibilities open up. Now is the time for us to be the change we wish to see in this world (Gandhi, n.d.). Let it be stated in closure, that without respect and tolerance, the lasting peace of societies cannot be maintained, and loyalty for each other will never be established. As once stated by the well-known political commentator and author, Bill Maher: “Let us not become so tolerant that we begin to tolerate intolerance.”

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