Where does intolerance of diversity come from? Do people learn racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry and prejudice? Or is it something ingrained in our psychology?

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Costi, who says: “I think [tolerance] is actually born and we were taught to become intolerant; take a 3 year-old white child and a 3 year-old black child and let them be close; they will have no problem playing together.”

To get a reaction, we put Costi’s comment to Dr. Yasemin El-Menouar, Senior Expert on the Living Values Programme at Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation working to “make it possible for everyone to participate in society and to promote the reforms needed to make that happen”. How would she respond?

It is important to think again about what tolerance actually means. Tolerance is actually something very paradoxical: it means accepting something that you actually reject. Tolerance does not mean that you recognize or respect something as equivalent. Based on the example with the two children playing, differences, in this case the different skin color, are not noticed by the two children. Tolerance, however, requires the perception of differences, and these are not necessarily rated positively. It is of course desirable that the different skin tones play no role for the two children. Such normalcy can, however, be destroyed if parents or other role models address these differences or even evaluate them negatively.

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services, an Irish charity supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) young people. What would she say?

I think Costi is right, to a point. I think children don’t see difference in the way adults are taught to see it. It’s systems, structures, and societies that imbue those kind of values and that lens on how we see difference.

But there is also an unconscious bias that we’re born with, and that is something that goes back to our old reptilian brains. The reason that’s there was for out ancestors to understand difference as something dangerous; if there was a sabre-tooth tiger coming down to your village, you would realise ‘Uh oh! This is dangerous. Gather up my loved-ones and let’s run’. Or if somebody else from a different village came down to steal the women and food, that’s an old part of our brain that we there and served a purpose.

But we have to overcome that, and that’s where we learn this as children – either to just let that reptilian brain and old part of your unconscious bias rule you, or to go: ‘No, wait a second. I recognise that I’m having this reaction about this person because they’re different to me, but the rational part of my brain can go: It’s okay, they’re not here to steal my food or rob me or do something that might affect my enjoyment of my life. This is just a natural reaction I’m having, and I now know in 2020 that difference is fine’.

So, I think Costi is right in that most of that is what we pick up as young children for the rest of our lives. It’s the messages we are receiving from other people, in the media, and so on. But there is also this older part of our brain, and we just have to recognise that…

Finally, we put Costi’s comment to Marc Angel, a social democratic Luxembourger MEP who is also co-chair of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup. What would he say?

The issue is about stereotypes, and stereotypes are learned, they are not born. Our stereotypes are formed by our entourage, our education, and our school. Stereotypes are learned, and tolerance must be taught. I don’t think you are born tolerant, I think you have to learn it. Therefore, wiping out stereotypes is so important.

Is tolerance born or learnt? Are children taught to be intolerant of diversity by society and their parents? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) Rido81; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Angel (CC BY-SA 3.0) Jwh


30 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    Is tolerance born or learned? It’s adopted through experience- not so?

    Themes like the above might stretch everyone’s philosophical imagination but leads us deeper into EU social engineering. Such philosophical deliberations are pretty much unhelpful to increase or restore trust in the EU or its political leadership. We are experiencing trying times!

    I’ll guess, many of us are intolerant when political leaders fail to lead but follow an EU pre-determined trajectory instead-Come hell or high water.

    I confess being intolerant when our EU Suzerain keeps shifting its focus to peripheral issues in times of a health & economic crisis that threatens everyone’s existence.

    The unbelievable need to welcome Chinese, Russian & Cuban health personal to assist EU members fighting a VIRUS is shameful & disgraceful. It exposes the EU as “not up to” & the EU concept a “paper tiger”. It reduces the EU to a third world country- helpless!

    Europe has many innovative and capable companies. Bosch & Randox e.g. developed new technologies to measure corona infections.
    Probably soon be bought by the Chinese regime & produced in China- should one only rely on the globalists & the EU.

    Example:
    https://www.randox.com/vivalytic/
    https://www.bosch.com/research/know-how/success-stories/bosch-vivalytic/
    https://www.randox.com/coronavirus-randox/

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Tolerance is learnt, regardless of whether the parents or society, but you’ll never see intolerant behavior from a baby unless he/she saw or listened to intolerant one.

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      @ Manahil=Anonymous (why copy & paste your/one comment?)

      Dear Manahil, thank you for reiterating the obvious.

      Consider: even a baby’s instinct triggers a reaction (called crying or jerking) when hungry or uncomfortable- aka- the baby is instinctively showing its intolerance” towards whatever is a bothering “baby” experience. Usually, a mother has the solution & reacts motherly!

      Not everything is or needs to be strictly political or socio-political. Life is multidimensional- Not so?

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      @ Manahil=Anonymous (why copy & paste your comments?)
      Dear Manahil, thank you for reiterating the (pc) obvious.

      Consider: even a baby’s instinct triggers a reaction (called crying or jerking) when hungry or uncomfortable- aka- the baby is instinctively showing its intolerance” towards whatever is a bothering “baby-experience”.

      Usually, a mother has the solution & reacts motherly! Politicians and/or Human Rights Activists usually have hardly any practical solutions and react politically.

      Not everything is strictly political or socio-political. Isn’t normal life multidimensional?

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      Sorry for the double posting (again)!
      My PC & I still have intolerable issues!

  2. avatar
    Riccardo

    what a stupid question. “Tolerance” was literally invented (in the modern European culture – I’m not considering previous forms of tolerancein other cultures) in the XVIIth centuty.

  3. avatar
    Manuel

    I do not agree that children use any obvious religious identifications inside schools.
    Specially when the religion identification for girls is related with their first menstruation.
    Little Girls and children mus be protected from all this melting of sexuality and religion and power over little children.

  4. avatar
    Michael

    THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED BY MODERATORS FOR BREACHING OUR CODE OF CONDUCT. REPLIES MAY ALSO BE REMOVED.

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      Unbelievable!
      Do you believe in creation as well as in “Third Reich” methods? A crime against humanity! Very enlightened (french?) thinking I must say!

    • avatar
      EU Reform-Proactive

      @ the moderator team:
      Thank you dear & unbiased Moderator for showing everyone a practical example how intolerance vs tolerance should be understood!

  5. avatar
    Bernard

    First of all, it has to be reciprocal, or else it’s simply a costly mistake.

  6. avatar
    Franck

    Tolerance is learnt. Humans, like every living creatures known, naturally obeys to Keen selection, which is the strong preference for the relatives and most genetically similar beings. Consider also that what you tolerate, you only tolerate.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      Tolerance is learnt, regardless of whether the parents or society, but you’ll never see intolerant behavior from a baby unless he/she saw or listened to intolerant one.f

  7. avatar
    Ana

    Intolerance is learnt as studies show. Children at young age tend to co-operate with each other. Nowadays social sciences consider co-operation is in Human DNA as a biological heritage, and to co-operate we must tolerate each other! Think: without co-operation human species wouldn’t perpetuate!
    Intolerance is a cultural imposed behaviour.

  8. avatar
    Julia

    I feel there is pressure from authority and some adult members of society so tolerance is forced. I know children the same colour, religion etc as other children yet they still reject some children for perceived differences. They just force themselves to hide the rejection for certain labelled taboo groups of different people by pressure from authority–whether teachers, parents or other adults.

  9. avatar
    George

    Tolerance towards intolerance, slavery, and inequality, should never been allowed in EU, don’t you agree?

    • avatar
      Anelia

      Now days the MSM is using the word “tolerance”(and racism and Islamophobia… !) in a very twisted way ! let”s keep the common sense and our traditions .

    • avatar
      Francis

      what traditions do you want to keep ?

    • avatar
      Anelia

      Let’s start with Xmas and Easter ……

    • avatar
      Francis

      any popular traditions will carry on depending if individuals are interested

  10. avatar
    Georgia

    If intolerance is learnt, why not Tolerance as well..

    • avatar
      Anelia

      Now days the MSM is using the word “tolerance”(and racism and Islamophobia… !) in a very twisted way ! let”s keep the common sense and our traditions .

  11. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactiv
  12. avatar
    Manahil

    Tolerance is learnt, regardless of whether the parents or society, but you’ll never see intolerant behavior from a baby unless he/she saw or listened to intolerant one.f

  13. avatar
    Enric

    I think is born within the family, but also is a two way feeling.

  14. avatar
    Nikos

    Don’t force religion/religion symbols to kids.

  15. avatar
    Catherine Benning

    Is tolerance born or learnt?

    Tolerance to do what? Insisting on covering a female child from head to toe from babyhood until death is intolerance of nature. It is a crime against the female of the human species. Therefore being tolerant of it is a crime against humanity.

    Do you feel that tolerating this practice was born or learnt?

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