I have decided to take the day off from giving advice, and hand the reins over to a guest writer - Maya Lincoln, writer for the Community College of RI's student-run newspaper, The Unfiltered Lens, and faithful reader of Ask Tazi!
To follow is a thought-provoking opinion piece that Miss Lincoln wrote for original publication in The Unfiltered Lens; one that I thought it worthy of a larger audience. I do hope you enjoy it!
Written by: Maya Lincoln
As someone who has an interest in promoting tolerance and acceptance of all diverse backgrounds, I question this very issue about tolerance. Why do I have such questions (and confusion) about what tolerance is and what it is not? Well, here is my reason:
Just recently, I have heard the same stories as everyone else about the removal of the prayer Banner at Cranston West and the renaming of the Christmas tree at the Rhode Island State House to "Holiday Tree" by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee. I have even gotten into serious discussions on my Facebook page with my friends and others who are on my "friends" list about these exact issues with the recent events and about what tolerance meant to all of us. Now I as a firm believer in tolerance, I am accepting of all the different diverse cultures, religions, and beliefs, in which the citizens of Rhode Island offer. However, when does having to rename a tree or even removing a banner at a school due to its religious significance have to do with tolerance? Well, this is a big confusion to me. As I was growing up in both the 1980's and the 1990's, there was a big emphasis on teaching tolerance of all diverse backgrounds and also the issue of political correctness. However, instead of teaching tolerance, my friends and I often see that we are inadvertently teaching intolerance. I was taught, by both my parents and my teachers, that tolerance is accepting everyone from all diverse backgrounds, no matter what they are. I was also taught that part of tolerance is being allowed to show pride for my background (a bi-racial woman with an Autism Spectrum disorder) without being harassed and/or judged by anyone else. That also includes anyone should be allowed to proudly display anything from their cultural background without being harassed and/or having to "hide" and not display it due to others who may not share the same background.
Now, I know about the laws dealing with the separation of church and state. This law allowed Governor Lincoln Chaffee to rename the tree displayed at the State House as the "Holiday Tree". But unfortunately, I have also witnessed such events occurring in situations, in which the "separation of church and state" law does not apply. Even in the apartment complex in which I live at, I witness others having to remove decorations from their own doors based on it "offending" someone else. My neighbors were quite upset and I happened to have "harped" in on their conversation, in which they had the same questions and concern that I had. How does displaying a Christmas wreath on one's door offend their non-Catholic neighbors? I know it may not be a part of their religious beliefs, but I would not get insulted if they were to display a Menorah or a decoration related to what their culture celebrates. How about when an openly gay student wears a Rainbow sticker with the words "Gay Pride" written on it and others say they are "offended" or "disgusted" by it? A person's sexual orientation should not offend anyone, nor should wearing a symbol that represents their community should either. I hear things where individuals feel uncomfortable and even offended by cultural or religious displays because those displays do not represent their own beliefs. I see that they may be uncomfortable, but to go as far as being offended, that is bit puzzling to me.
But just how is the displaying of cultural, religious, other diverse backgrounds offending? I could see if these displays had offensive words or signs such as ethnic slurs or even swastikas, in which it would be offensive. However, displaying a holiday decoration or wearing something that shows pride for one's culture is not offending, but actually beautiful. How about instead of complaining of being "offended" or even having someone remove a cultural or religious display, why not display something from all diverse cultures to that display. If anything, I would love such a diverse display because it shows the beauty that this world is: a world that has many diverse backgrounds, cultures, and religions all sharing this wonderful planet, living together in peace and harmony.
So my solution to all of this: Instead of hiding and removing our displays from our diverse background, we all should display something from all of our backgrounds. Whether it be a multi-cultural display of holiday scenes, or every student in the whole school wearing an article of clothing with a symbol or decoration of their heritage, it should be displayed and loved. No matter what your diverse backgrounds maybe, show it, be proud, and accept yourself and others, as well. Showing this pride will allow us to see all the wonderful diversity this world has to offer and that we all belong in this world. The world is meant to be a "colorful" place, one with all different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and other beautiful and wonderful diverse differences. Besides if we all looked the same and did the same things, this world would be a very boring place to live in.
Copyright Maya Lincoln and The Unfiltered Lens. Used With Author's Permission.
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