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#ToleranceMeans a society where people look at each other, acknowledge the unique things that make them who they are, and come together to revel in the intricacy and beauty of the world we live in.

Updated: Apr 8

Rachael Mary Lee, Undergraduate, TMD St. Thomas


What does tolerance mean, you ask?


Tolerance is a black man walking around a store without being followed or suspected of theft.


Tolerance is not being fired when receiving a bad diagnosis or learning of a genetic predisposition for a disease.


Tolerance is holding my girlfriend’s hand in public, unafraid, without fear of being attacked or harassed. It is talking openly about my personal life at work, not worrying that I will be fired from my job, and it is getting married to the person I love.


I have spent my life looking for it… Looking forward to the day our world would achieve tolerance. But now, with more years and experiences under my belt, I know that tolerance is not what we need. Tolerance is the skeleton framework, the bare minimum, without all the muscles and the sinews and the life. Tolerance is not the finish line, it is just the start of the march toward something greater: the march toward acceptance.


Acceptance is equality in the media. It’s seeing people like me, relationships like mine, on television, side by side with those that are more “typical”, with no real differences in how they are treated. Acceptance is trans, POC, and differently-abled actors and actresses playing trans, POC, and differently-abled roles. It is women and minority groups in well developed, compelling, speaking roles, unconfined by stereotypes, and strong men showing emotion without shame.


Acceptance is consistency in treatment of black and white activists, black and white criminals, black and white candidates. It is government made up of men and women, of straight and queer, and of every shade of skin there is. Acceptance is expecting and receiving positive reactions to mixed race or same sex relationships. It is brides and grooms surrounded by happy, supportive families, basking in the glow of the best days of their lives, whose biggest concerns come from what kind of flowers or flavor of cake they have chosen.

Acceptance is intelligent architecture, making every space accessible to people of all abilities. It is sensible health care and mental health education.


Tolerance is the absence of violence and discrimination against minority groups. A tolerant world is a world in which one does not need to live in fear of being attacked, verbally, legally, or physically, for who they are. Of course, that is a looming goal towards which we must push hard every day, but we have so much farther to go than that. Acceptance is love and compassion, the celebration of differences, the understanding that it is our differences that make the world interesting and life worth living.


People do not want to be tolerated. I know that I don’t. I do not want people to put up with me. I want a society where people look at each other, acknowledge the unique things that make them who they are, and come together to revel in the intricacy and beauty of the world we live in.

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