How tolerant are you of people who look and think differently than you? With global divisions continuing to assert themselves, this is an important question – one which drives down to the very core of who we are as human beings.
There is a deep concern about hate crimes (meaning crimes motivated by racism, intolerance or bigotry) today. It is also very troubling that people under the age of 24 commit more than two thirds of these vicious crimes in the United States – and the trend seems to be spreading to other countries not normally known for such behavior.
A Harris Poll some time ago indicated that over fifty percent of the high school students had personally witnessed racial confrontations and four out of ten said that they would be willing to either participate in or silently support racial incidents. From the front pages of the newspapers, web news sites and blogs, things have not gotten any better. Depending upon your news outlet of choice, it appears to have gotten worse.
Now, experience should have taught us that hate, fear, and violence only survive where there is ignorance, and where a poor self-image makes it seem desirable to see others as somehow beneath us. Schools around the world are confronting this mindset, attempting to reinforce the teaching of tolerance and respect right along with basic skills. Critical thinking and listening skills are more important than ever.
We live in a world where diversity is the rule rather than the exception. If our kids are threatened by differences or uncomfortable around others who don’t look or speak as they do, they aren’t likely to grow, or go, very far. And in a world that is getting smaller every day, we run the risk of letting our children be so much less than they could be.
Children need to be taught to hate and fear; it’s not something we are born with. At the same time, they need to be taught to love and care, and be concerned with things beyond their own needs. It’s time to help every child understand that we are all more alike than different.