Accomodation and tolerance are two-way streets

As we all know, there is a lot of talk about accomodation and tolerance of people’s differences. It seems to me, though, that most of the accomodation/tolerance being preached is one way: That person/culture is different, so you should be accepting of those differences and accomodate them.

We all tend to look at things through our own lens, focusing those things that matter to us while de-focusing those things on the periphery. We all expect others to be ‘tolerant’ of our way of doing things, but don’t always recognize that others expect the same from us. Of course, this can be taken to the opposite extreme.

I remember a conversation in a business class I was taking related to negotiations. At the time, the US and UN were trying to get Iraq to comply with weapons inspections. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the chief negotiator. One of my classmates made a comment along the lines of, “The Arabs don’t respect the role of women in this kind of situation. We should send a man to do the negotiation so we don’t offend them.” My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped to the floor. What?!?

Consideration for others goes both ways. It doesn’t matter who is “right” or “wrong”, or who is “privileged” or not. If you expect others to accept you, and tolerate you, you need to be willing to accept and tolerate them.

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