Cultural tolerance: Why can’t we all just get along?

I want to broach on a very delicate topic about tolerance – cultural tolerance. For hundreds of years, we (black people) have been pleading and bleeding to be accepted into society as equals. We have died and come back from the dead, screaming for equity in a system designed to keep us back and down. We want the concrete ceiling broken! But why must the world tolerate us, when we don’t even tolerate ourselves?

As a newcomer to the UK, more specifically, Scotland, I always smile when I see another black face. But I am usually greeted with a blank stare. On campus, I was reliably informed that because I was not “African”, I don’t carry the same burdens. I beg to differ. I am black – whether from the islands of the Caribbean Sea or from the “continent”. I am a black woman in a white world, trying to succeed. Why can’t we all just get along?

The adage of ‘divide and conquer’ was successfully applied during slavery, I honestly believe it was the key to perpetuating colonialism and slavery. And I do think, it is still present in today’s social fabric. It is apparent in the black community more than ever. A recent example is a friend of mine trying to date a dude from the “continent”. He described the Caribbean culture of carnival in such derogatory terms, using words like vulgar and distasteful. He was also adamant that if they were to go further, she would not be able to partake in such activities! He is serious! My friend is reconsidering the relationship.

Never would I ask someone to give up themselves, their beliefs, their culture because I don’t understand it. I would want to partake in every aspect of what defines this person and share the innards of what defines me. How would he feel if he was told he could not eat pounded yam or jollof, ever again? Or he must stop all his cultural or tribal practices? How is he so different from our colonists? Why is he not practising the tolerance we so profoundly seek? These are the questions that remain in my mind.

This was not the first time I have heard these types of complaints or retorts. So, it really brings me to the conclusion that we just do not like each other. How can we, as a group, really make advances if we can’t stand together?

To tolerate is to accept and by definition of cultural tolerance, it is also to respect and appreciate the rich diversity of the varying forms of expression and ways of being human. My disclaimer is that I do not expect everyone to participate in the debauchery of Carnival or the common practices of the Igbo, but what I hope for is greater acceptance and appreciation, where we can come together, despite our differences and conquer the system.

– Dara D

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