World Tolerance Day 2018: Understanding Intolerance is Key.

Featured Photograph: During the time of Apartheid in South Africa, when black people were denied their basic human and political rights, two youngsters of different races forge a connection in Cape Town. / UN Photo (1982)

Editor | Cassandra Lau


World Tolerance Day marks the 16th November every year as a day to generate public awareness of the dangers and unacceptability of intolerance.

“Tolerance is an act of humanity, which we must nurture and enact each in our own lives every day, to rejoice in the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together.” — UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay

Let’s all agree that tolerance has hit quite a rough patch in the political and public domain in the past two years.

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States has been a key engine to this resurfacing intolerance, despite his claim that he is “the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered.”

As much as it pains for me to recount many of his unacceptable acts of intolerance, it is necessary today to discuss what intolerance is – and there is no better example than Mr. Trump himself. There will also be other cases, and studies from recent years involved.

Today, I confess that I cannot possibly cover all issues concerning intolerance as much as I wish I could, and that it is impossible for me to completely speak for, or step into the shoes of those who have had scarring experiences of intolerance. However, it is incredibly important for people to become aware of the existence of such behaviour and its dire affect on individuals, in order for a greater understanding to be met.

Racial and Religious Intolerance

At a New Hampshire rally on 30 September, 2015, Trump pledged to kick out all Syrian refugees, many who are Muslim, out of the country, saying, “They could be ISIS, I don’t know. This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000 man army, maybe.” Later adding on-air in an interview, “This could make the Trojan horse look like peanuts.”

It was also recorded on the campaign trail that Trump repeatedly made explicitly racist and bigoted remarks towards Mexicans and Muslims. He naturally associates Mexican immigrants as “criminals and rapists”, and Muslims as terrorists. You may recall, in 2016, his ban on all Muslims coming to the U.S. and joked about the idea of a Muslim registry.

“This is a five-year ban, so you have one last chance to get out.”

He also declared, “Islam hates us”, falsely accusing Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attack:

“It was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”

Muslims, anti-Trump and anti-racist activists protest in June 2017 in New York City. Conspiracy theories targeting Muslims have increasingly entered the political mainstream. Photograph: Erik M/Pacific/Barcroft Images

Closer to home, I recall reading an interesting article on tolerance early this term from The Guardian, stating:

 “Britain has on the whole become more, not less, tolerant in recent years. Attitudes towards immigration have improved: 55 percent of people think immigration is good for the country, compared to 40 percent in 2011. More than 90 percent of Britons believe immigration is essential but that economic need should determine its levels, and the proportion of people whose hostility to immigration is driven by opposition to all ethnicities or religions other than their own has shrunk from 13 percent in 2011 to 5 percent today.”

The article then goes on to then question “why does our government insist on acting as though” the general population dislike immigrants?

It has been evident that majority of the people around the world have become more aware of issues surround intolerance, but unfortunately, the same does not apply up-top.

Intolerance towards sexes and genders

Intolerance towards women:

Intolerance towards the LGBTQ:

Despite stating that he, Mr. Trump, would do everything in his power to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community:

Actions speak louder than words:

  • March 2018: The White House formally bans transgender people from serving in the military.
  • The Trump administration rescinded a nonbinding Obama-era guidance that told K-12 schools that trans students are protected under federal civil rights law and, therefore, schools should respect trans students’ rights, including their right to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. The Trump administration took back the guidance altogether, arguing trans students aren’t protected under federal civil rights law. (Source: Vox)
  • His Justice Department also rescinded another Obama-era note the said trans workers are protected under civil rights law. This has enabled the federal government to now state that anti-trans discrimination is legal and of no offence under federal law.
  • The Trump administration does not recognise Pride Month, but does celebrate National Homeowners Month in its place.
  • Following the Orlando shooting that month, he used immigrants as a scapegoat. Instead of reinforcing laws to better protect the LGBTQ community, he takes this as an opportunity to propose immigration bans:

“We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people, with force, purpose, and determination […] The killer […] was born in Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States. […] The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place, was because we allowed his family to come here. That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about. We have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country …” (4’20”)

I recall the exact time and moment when I came to fully understand and, not just tolerate, but accept transgenderism. Ethan Smith’s performance of ‘A letter to the Girl I used to Be’ is heartfelt, and an incredible piece that I hope all of you will take the time to listen to.

Body Shaming (or sizeism)

Some may recall the uproar from Mike Jeffries, former Abercrombie & Fitch CEO’s comments on who should wear the company’s clothes, and who shouldn’t.

“We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

“In every school, there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

His suggestion that in order for excitement, alienation must co-exist. However, recent productions, fashion models and statements have suggested otherwise.

Based on Christopher Bergland’s Psychology Today article, he includes a statement by Michael Clearfield, Dean of Touro University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine:

“It’s not unlike the way we treated depression 40 years ago. Only, instead of telling people to ‘get over it’, we say, ‘just eat right and exercise.’ We know there are economic, cultural, political and environmental elements causing this problem, yet our approach to treatment puts sole responsibility on the patient’s behaviour.

Ashley Graham Interview. / Source: Refinery29

2016 marked a true breakthrough with size positivity as Ashley Graham talked about looking beyond the plus size paradigms. She said she doesn’t consider herself “Plus size,” but “more like my size.” In the U.S. fashion industry, sizes above an 8 are considered ‘Plus Size’.


In fact, in Asia, “sizeism” doesn’t exist – not in a good way though. If you were above a UK size 8, you were considered “round”, “plump”, or even “fat”. It is also a common phenomenon for Asian relatives, or people to vocally tell you – to your face – that you were “fat”. Though it is considerably better in the U.K., there still remains a huge problem in recognising that it is just as bad when said indirectly. It is just as bad to judge someone solely based on their size.

In an article, Kitty Stryker shares her shocking personal experience of fatphobia that no one should ever have to undergo.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 11.11.44Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 11.11.30

Beyond the social spectrum, a 2013 Yale study found “that male jurors were more likely to convict an obese female defendant than a thin female defendant,” and labelled as a potential “repeat offender”. This mirrors a earlier study from Cornell that confirmed that jurors considered obese women fit the bill, or were the “type of person” who would commit a crime.

Image from Yale Study 2013.

This is when ‘seemingly harmless’ thoughts can trigger extremely harmful outcomes. 

Simultaneously, the same goes for those on the other spectrum. Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ lyrics:

“Yeah, this one is for my bitches with a fat ass in the fucking club/ Fuck those skinny bitches.”

Skinny shaming is unacceptable either. To be confident about curves, is not the equivalent of being horrible about the lack of curves.



One thought on “World Tolerance Day 2018: Understanding Intolerance is Key.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s