Teaching Tolerance


Tolerance, what does this really mean?  Where does it begin when we begin to ignore the hate just to keep the peace does that make me a “Model Minority” or when I speak up, am I being boisterous and loud?  Tolerance is lacking in our society.  Where is the limit?  When it pushes us so far?  We’ve all been discriminated in our lives, some more than others but when we use words of “racism” to cast out every time we have a difference in opinion especially when our opponent is of a different national origin?  Will racism be piled in the mix of: gay, dumb, retarted as the new “slander”?  What are WE teaching our future children?  I know for me, I struggle with my personal struggle of oppression.  I know what it’s like to be rejected, declined, hated on by my skin color, the shape of my eyes and even my name; but you know what on the opposite end I am rising, I am standing and I am living life to the fullest.  It is easier to teach tolerance than to practice it, trust me I go through ignorance every day.  When I order my coffee, I debate in my head when the cashier asks me what is my name, “Do I say Kim, cause it’s much easier to pronounce in our American World or do I challenge them to say my real name right.  “Chong” I say with a smile hoping this cashier will prove my insecurity wrong.  “Chan?” she asks, right then my mind immediately flashes back to the kids in my school, “Ching Chong, Ching Chong.” is all that is clouded in my head.  I can feel the anger rising beneath me, I want to roll my eyes at her, but I don’t.  Instead, I tell her “Chong without the Cheech” and then I laugh and when she sees me laugh, then she laughs with me.  Was that teaching tolerance?  The “old” me would’ve said, “CHONG! C-H-O-N-G how hard is that to pronounce, can you not hear?”  What would I prove?  Is it really about winning?  Maybe, me saying my name is associated with the classic comedians “Cheech’n Chong” may have her realize my name isn’t that bad to pronounce?

I’m bringing this up for many reasons, I just watched “Night Catches Us” and it was about their fight against oppression.  There was a character in the film that was picking up cans so he can turn them into coins and the setting was in the mid 70’s in Philly, I don’t think the year really matters cause I see evidence of oppression even today, but this guy was minding his own business.  The cop’s car was in the way of this guy’s cart, he asked the cop if he could pull up so he could get by, the cop told him to leave the cart and be gone.  The guy turned around and mumbled a profanity about the cop, the cop heard him and got out of the vehicle to arrest him.  From my personal experience, I have dealt with situations like this, not by a cop but by an authority figure who didn’t feel that I needed to be treated like a human being so I can relate to the character’s anger.  I remember 15 years ago, I was homeless and I had some cash to get me something nice to wear, I walked in a department store with a tore up overalls and a tank underneath.  I had tennis shoes that was falling apart I remember standing in line at the register and this woman looked up and down at me and said, “We don’t accept cash.”  I knew she lied and I was mad so I spit in her face and told her to wipe that off with some greens and walked away.  I didn’t accomplish anything, but more anger and hurt, plus I got banned from visiting that store again.  I was residing in the streets of downtown Pittsburgh and the store was only 3 blocks away, because of my behavior I later end up walking 8 blocks just to buy clothes.

It is difficult not to get angry and want to “teach” them our lesson, but I’ve learned through the years that violence is never the answer.  I look at my life now and when strangers that come up to me and say, “Thank You.” I become speechless, I don’t know what to say.  What are they thanking me for?  I was a child of sexual and physical abuse, I was born with physical mobility and through the years, aging and abuse I’ve now have muscle spasms in my face, I can’t lift my right arm over my head and I have more limp in my walking then I did when I was younger and yet to many I am their “hero”.  I am legally bound to utilize any special needs that is available for me: scooter, parking, wheelchair and assistance in various public service areas and I don’t ever use many of them because I know someday I will be permanently bound to a wheelchair so I want to expand my walking opportunity as much as I can tolerate it.  I only use the parking if I’m at a large over packed parking or wheelchair assistant when traveling, all others I walk and rest as much as I can, but when people who don’t know me, they see a young face and I have a handicap sticker I see them roll their eyes, I just laugh instead of getting angry because they don’t know me.  I try my best to teach tolerance through my actions, my speaking and through my children so I can carry on the torch of non-violent ways to fight back.  This is all I have to say, thank you for allowing me to share.




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