SETTLING FOR TOLERANCE HAS NOXIOUS EFFECTS
Lashley is a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill
University and a researcher at the Lady Davis Institute of the
Jewish General Hospital. Her current research focuses on the intersections
of culture, terrorism and national security. She is currently
Barbados’s Honorary Consul to Montreal. This article was
originally published in the Montreal Gazette.
his speech to the assembled crowd at the 2018 Pride Parade in
Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried the usage of the
word “tolerance” by Canadians when referring to their
neighbours who differ from them. Instead, he called for acceptance.
I could not agree more.
person of colour and an individual who numbers many LGBTQ folk
among relatives, friends and acquaintances, I am fully aware of
the noxious effects of being tolerated. Although, given the occasion,
Trudeau was primarily referencing the LGBTQ community, his rebuke
of tolerance should be extended to other groups, for example:
First Nations; seniors; the homeless; persons of colour; women;
another human implies that the individual is somehow lacking;
that she or he is not “as good as” and is devoid of
particular qualities, which have been determined by some mysterious
algorithm, of which the “offender” may or may not
be aware. Moreover, the values represented by the algorithm are
things over which the individual found wanting has absolutely
no control, such as gender; sexual orientation; melanin content;
phenotypes and so forth.
also implies that the “tolerating” group is possessed
of the belief that they have the right, and indeed the responsibility,
to identify who should be granted the seal of tolerance. Thus,
“tolerance” perpetuates the myth that some societal
members are the gold standard against which all others must be
judged. The extension of this belief is that the groups applying
for the seal of tolerance are placed in a position where they
must constantly monitor their behaviours; words; dress and other
external manifestations of what the dominant group deems to be
“normal” in order to be acceptable. Notably, the paradigm
of “tolerance” does not confer full membership, which
means that at worst, it can be withdrawn for transgressing the
rules of the algorithm and at a minimum, be granted limited access
to the rights and privileges enjoyed by the members of the self-identified
of tolerance is compounded in cases where individuals have multiple
attributes that are not accorded fully positive recognition by
our society. Take for example, a black, gay, female, homeless,
senior citizen. Each of these components of that person’s
being intersect to create the whole. Yet each of these sections
are subjected to the scourge of “tolerance,” which
can be unbelievably stressful. Moreover, the stress of constantly
striving to meet the criteria of “tolerance” and to
behave in ways which are politically respectable could lead to
cultural battle fatigue and despair, which can create a tremendous
onslaught on the physical and mental health of the individual.
could all just imagine spending one’s life being “tolerated”;
being viewed as the “other”; having to meet criteria
of which one is not aware and into which neither you nor your
group(s) had any input, perhaps it would be easy for us to understand
why tolerance is such an unacceptable and vile concept.
I believe that “acceptance,” although better, is the
answer, as acceptance still implies that one group has the intrinsic
power to determine who will and who will not meet the criteria
a proud country composed of good people and I continue to believe
that, in the main, we all want the best for each other. We should,
therefore, abandon “tolerance” and work toward the
inclusion of all of us into the body politic as the norm.
Prime Minister Trudeau, there is no place in Canada for tolerance
when it pertains to respect for our fellow citizens.