A couple of weeks ago a disgusting and awful event took place at Zach’s old middle school. It was a terrible combination of bullying, overt racial intimidation and pure stupidity on the part of a group of boys on the football team. This incident sparked a large, and necessary, community discussion. Stan went to the meeting out of a need to see how this incident would be addressed and also to see how our community would react. When he came home he told me about the speakers, from a representative of the NAACP, our school superintendent, a mother of a football player who wasn’t involved in the incident and a grandmother…among many others. It was what the grandmother said in this meeting that has stayed with me, grabbed ahold and has not let go. It’s where I want to take you…
This grandmother is originally from Puerto Rico and grew up in Chicago. Stan related the life she had growing up in a very mixed ethnic area and the lessons she learned there about living with those who are just a little different from each other. She said it was there she learned about inclusion. They spent time in school learning about each other and other customs. Racial tolerance wasn’t what she learned. She learned racial inclusion.
Stan and I talked and talked and talked about this incident and her wise words. What the difference is between tolerance and inclusion…Tolerance is just that, you learn to tolerate something because you are forced to do so by society or a larger force. Inclusion is embracing some being who is different from us because it’s what we’re supposed to do in this short life we have here. In our house we have two cats and a dog. Stan can’t stand the cats, but he tolerates them because of me. The dog, on the other hand, he includes in every aspect of our life because he’s learned to embrace the quirkiness that is Bella. Tolerance shows disdain for another. Inclusion shows love.
In these days what we need is inclusion. The whole racial “tolerance” rhetoric needs to be replaced with love and acceptance. I know we’re not always going to like everyone we meet, but what I’ve always told my kids is you don’t have to be everybody’s best friend, but you do have to be kind. Kindness equals inclusion, which equals love of our fellow humans who walk this earth with us.
Oh, for the love of my children…and yours.