Posted on October 3, 2014
What does diversity mean?
Diversity means variety – or a wide range of differences. A place with a lot of bio-diversity has many different sorts of plants and animals, and a nation with a lot of diversity has people with heritages from all over the world...Perhaps people who speak a wide range of languages, eat many different foods, celebrate many different holidays, have many different customs, and follow different religions or have different sorts of world views. No matter what their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, people are people – and they are all deserving of tolerance and acceptance.
Tolerance of diversity is not necessarily an easy thing. You may think that someone's political or religious views are wrong – and in some situations, it's okay to tell that person about your disagreement, even to debate the issues – but you should still be able to get along with that person, accept that he or she has a right to hold those opinions and beliefs, agree to disagree.
Some people easily accept diversity, but don't like the ideas of mere “tolerance.” I mean, can't we do better than just putting up with one another? Can't we actually respect one another's beliefs, and celebrate each other's differences?
Actually, not always. We can say the words “I respect everyone's world view” – but then when we see someone believing every foolish thing ever thought up by hucksters and charlatans, we don't actually FEEL respect for that person's gullibility (which means willingness to believe foolish things). We might say that of course we respect every religion, but then find ourselves laughing at the belief that the dictator of a Galactic Confederacy brought billions of his people to Earth in a spaceship, stacked those beings around volcanos, and killed them with atom bombs – and, whoops! That story sounds like fun science fiction, but one of the world's religions teaches that it is true!
So I do not think we can necessarily promise to respect and celebrate every difference. Instead, we should make a commitment to accept and tolerate diversity.
Being intolerant of intolerance...and hating hatred.
Another tricky part of tolerance is what to do when people's beliefs hurt other people. Obviously, we cannot allow someone to steal beat up other people, even if he claims that he is doing so because his god commands him to do so. We surely cannot allow someone to steal from others, even if she claims that, in her world view, there is no such thing as ownership, and therefore it's not stealing. We also cannot allow people to insult others, shame others, or otherwise psychologically harm others, even if they have some sort of “but it's my BELIEF!!” excuse.
But it is hard, sometimes, to figure out who's really hating on who, because people can be sort of sneaky with their insults. I try to remember, “Criticize the belief, not the believer.” Even if someone is being racist, try to remember to complain about the specific racist behaviors and words, and not to get personal. “That was an unfair, racist thing to say!” – not “You are a lousy excuse for a human being!”
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