I’m Not Teaching My Children Tolerance, Neither Should You

I'm Not Teaching My Children Tolerance, Neither Should You | Sedruola Maruska

Tolerance, really? This post holds a bit of harsh language. . . You’ve been warned. 🙂

I’m a woman of Haitian decent. Actually, a first generation Haitian-American. In Creole the word tolerance is not ever spoken in nice tones. It’s usually delivered with disdain and harshness. Which is why it always baffles me when organizations and people here in America speak of “tolerance” as a thing to teach.

Tolerance, for me, is not what I think to teach my children when it comes to other people.

Thinking I might be misunderstanding the word I decided to look up tolerance in the Merriam-Webster dictionary online. I teach my son (and soon my daughter) to look up words, so that was my default. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just tainted by the connotation ‘tolerance’ held in Creole vs. English.

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I'm Not Teaching My Children Tolerance, Neither Should You | Sedruola Maruska

The Definition

Imagine my shock when I read the first definition listed:

“capacity to endure pain or hardship”

I was right! My education did not fail me (in that regard) and when put in context in Creole, that’s exactly what it means. It’s a feeling of being able or unable to ENDURE pain or hardship presented . . .

“sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”

Sympathy? Indulgence? Still not things that invoke hearts or rainbows . . . Let’s continue

“the act of allowing something.”

*Sigh*

Wait, what? So basically “I will allow you to be black” or “I will allow you to be Jewish” or “I will allow you to be gay”? The final set of definitions is what threw me over the top…

“the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (such as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure developed a tolerance to painkillersalso :  the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) :  relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor”

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Synonyms

Why the Fuck (excuse me while I put on my elitist cap) would I want to teach my children to look at people as “things to be endured” or “hardships to indulge”? We’re teaching “tolerance”?

I am, they are, we are all human beings,  no one wants to simply be “tolerated”! I don’t want you in my space looking at me as something to “endure”! If you find my mere presence offensive then get the fuck out of my space. Do not put us in a position where you’re “enduring” a “sustained” trauma and I’m thinking we’re communicating.

Still not fully convinced? Well, neither was I, although I was getting there quickly, so I looked up words that may be similar in meaning, you know synonyms:

forbearance, long-suffering, sufferance, patience

Then related words:

acquiescence, resignation; passiveness, passivity; amenability, compliance, conformism, docility, obedience, subordination, tractability, willingness; discipline, self-control; submission, submissiveness

Correct me if I’m wrong but there’s a pattern here. All these words imply that those who are “tolerant” are in a state of great discomfort and in a position to be easily misled.

Teaching people to “tolerate” other people needs to be the teaching of last resort, not the platform! Because, at the very least, we should be tolerant. Tolerance is not the first thing to teach. . . I do not want to simply be tolerated.

An Examination

Have you ever been on a diet where you had to endure eating in a way that made you feel deprived? Did you stick with that diet or did you rebel and look for something new? That’s what I thought.

When forced to stay in a state of discomfort, say like chronic pain, people don’t learn what they need to grow, they simply learn to endure. That is tolerance. How can I, in good conscience, teach my children to endure other people? That will in turn teach them they are powerless and must endure the unfavorable situation when someone else is simply enduring their presence. I do not stay in the presence of those I think are merely enduring my presence.

“Mommy, can I change my color?”

It seems to me, this tolerance thing is blowing up in our faces right now. Alt-right, white supremacists are running rampant in our streets when for years many allowed themselves to think they were a thing of the past. What they were doing was “tolerating” us (blacks, Jews, gays, other). They’ve been uncomfortable for too long. In that discomfort they were made “submissive”, “passive” and are now fighting for a state of comfort.

Groups of people that have been taught to “tolerate” and others that have been “tolerated”, all living in a sustained state of discomfort are pushing back. No human wants or should stay in a state of sustained discomfort.

The Alternative

No, I’m not going to teach my children to tolerate people. Nor am I going to teach them to endure being tolerated. I’m teaching my children to be curious and open to other ways of life. I’m teaching them the richness of  experiencing and indulging in theirs and other cultures, immersing themselves in the beauty that is diversity. I’m teaching them to love.

When we’re open we gain insight and information about people and situations we don’t understand. Staying open means having sincere conversations and asking questions that bring information that’s otherwise a mystery. My children are learning that if they don’t like someone, they don’t have to be tolerant of that person. They walk away. They’re also learning that liking someone is never based on the way a person looks, worships or loves. Liking someone is based on who they are. There are people of all races, creeds, religions etc. who are assholes. We don’t have to tolerate that shit.

In turn, I’m not here to simply be tolerated.

Tolerance is the teaching of last resort.

Tolerance is the act of last resort.

So, if you haven’t talked to me, been open to me and learned anything about me because of the color of my skin, I DO expect you to tolerate me. Because I’m here, I’m not going anywhere and it’s your choice to stay in your ignorant state of stress.

What’s blowing up right now is a whole lot of tolerance gone awry. We take the teaching of last resort,  make it the best option and now people are done tolerating. We’re not teaching sensitivity to culture, because we’re afraid to teach culture. We’re not teaching an understanding of people, because we’re afraid to teach history properly. Kids aren’t learning  love, they’re learning to “get along” and to “tolerate”.

Teaching anyone to simply tolerate things that can never change will never end well.

Antonyms

The one antonym:

Impatience

The near antonyms, those words that are close to the opposite of tolerance:

defiance; contrariness, disobedience  insubordination, intractability, recalcitrance, resistance, willfulness

Sound familiar?

When tolerance is no longer sustainable you’ll get the opposite.

Take Away

Teach history, culture, inclusion, sensitivity and love. Then, if by some horrible twist, those things don’t work, teach tolerance. But please, take it from someone who is of a “tolerated” class, don’t teach tolerance first. If tolerance is the only lesson that sticks, then impatience is not too far behind



“Mommy, can I change my color?”

Mommy Can I Change My Color? | Sedruola Maruska

“Mommy, can I change my color?”

From the moment my kids came into this world they have challenged and helped me grow the views I hold about myself, the confidence I have as a mother, as a woman and as a woman of color.

If you read the post on my worst conversation with my daughter you already know she’s wise beyond her five years. This is no different, especially since it took place when she was two.

I don’t remember where we were going, but we needed to get ready quickly. I jumped into the shower and took my baby girl with me. As we showered she noticed that I had hair in places she didn’t so, true to her nature she spoke up.

Sia:    Mommy, why do you have hair there?
Mommy:    Because all women have hair there, it’s something that happens when you grow up and become a woman
Sia:    Will I have hair there too?
Mommy:    Yes, when you grow up you’ll have hair there too

I enjoy answering my kids questions no matter what they are. I think if they ask me and I answer truthfully, without judgement, they’ll keep asking and we’ll be able to teach them a few things before the world does.

The conversation continued and I was not quite ready. . .

Sia:    Does that mean when I grow up I’ll be able to change my color too?

*Pause*

The commitment I have to being open with my children in a loving and calm way has been challenged often. At the very moment she asked that question I felt an overwhelming sadness and fear in my heart. No matter what, I need to continue this conversation and deal with myself later.

The first questions I wanted to ask was “Change your color? Why would you want to do that?”. But instead I decided to seek her view instead of coming from mine.

Oh God, where are we going? Please help me remain composed?

Mommy:    What do you mean baby?
Sia:    When I grow up and have hair there like you, then can I change my color to look like you?
Mommy:    Oh. . . no baby, we can’t choose our color. Maybe your color will look more like mommy, but we can’t choose.

As a black woman married to a white man I have insecurities about a few things (I won’t get into them all here, now) one being how my babies will react to what the world will throw at them as mixed humans.

To be honest, one thing I never expected in this journey of motherhood to mixed babies is the momentary sadness I feel, at times, knowing it’s my blood that will bring them their greatest challenges. So this conversation flooded me with hope.

Yes, I fully expected my daughter to want to change her color to white, but I failed to see that she was already a little cocoa with a lot of milk. When I look at my children I don’t see color, I see my babies. Just like when I look at my husband I don’t see a white man, I see my husband. I see the core of my life. But in that short moment, I thought my daughter did see the negativity that the world saw in my color and wanted no part of it. . . .

There’s always more growing to do.

My fear stemmed from my personal conditioning and not from reality. Daughters want to look like their mamas (even secretly) and instead of thinking that’s where my two year old was going I thought the worst. How would I handle her NOT wanting to look like me? Could I bear that pain?

But just like I love my babies unconditionally, they love me. They aren’t caught up in the world’s ideas about race. They look at us, my husband and me, and see people they’ve known all their lives who’ve been here protecting, feeding, playing, teaching and housing them (I’m not sure they realize all that goes on either 🙂 ) for better or for worst.

Letting my kids feel and speak freely has been a lesson in life for me. The conversation we had in the shower that day sticks with me. Not because of my daughter, but because of what I felt my knee-jerk reaction was and the reasoning behind it.

I don’t know if at five years old my baby girl still wants to change her color, but she doesn’t need to. I want the inquisitive, fierce and amazing young lady she is to stick around no matter what her shell looks like. She’s amazingly beautiful from the inside out and I want her to know and embrace that always.

As for me, I continue to grow in the knowledge that many stories the world has told me, as a black woman, need to be re-written. My personal narrative is strong, rooted in a family and history that is fierce, but it can always be stronger. Who I am and what I project into the world is what my babies will see. It’s important that they see a strong, confident woman of color who is fiercely fighting for all that she believes. That way, they too can confidently join the fights that mean something to them.

No baby, you can’t change your color. You’re okay no matter how you look. I love you. . . go get em’!