“You’re not what I expected”: Tolerance of Intolerance.


A friend of mine works as a Companion. This involves spending time with mainly older men and women who need someone to sit and chat with and on occasion, cook for them. On one of these visits she came across a client who, upon setting eyes on my dear friend, remarked that she was not what the client had expected. My friend, whom I shall call Kate, asked her what she could help with and the old lady responded that she would prefer that she leave.

Naturally, Kate felt very uncomfortable and called her office to inform her of the situation. The office instructed her to leave and that she would still be paid, rightly so. My dear friend however felt that her office should probably warn people ahead of her visit that she is …..Black!! Now I know exactly where she was coming from. She’s been through this before and in most cases the clients have been too “polite” or in greater need of company to ask her to leave. It’s an awkward and distressing situation that she would prefer to not go through again. What I don’t agree with is her or anybody else taking on the burden of someone else’s prejudices. A high melanin production is not an affliction that others need advance warning of.

Often we say that racism from the old is to be expected due to the era in which they come from . While I will agree that each generation has its prejudices and challenges I think we need to examine our response to and tolerance for this. Why do we give old people a pass when it comes to social prejudices? Would we accept this lady’s attitude had my friend been disabled for example? While this lady has every right to decide who sets foot in her home, she and others like her have to bear the burden of their discrimination. They should not be spared the opportunity to reflect on their narrow-mindedness.

Old age is a gift: the opportunity to continue to experience life and grow in mind and spirit. This unfortunate woman , with her intolerance of reality has done a disservice to herself. My friend is a beautiful human being and a brilliant cook and this lady will never know this. She may not care but I hope to reach the minds of those that do. So that as we age we don’t dig into our faults and allow them to limit our experiences. I am not advocating some sort of intervention for the elderly but I firmly believe that when we normalise such behaviour we give it room to thrive.

What disservice we do ourselves by denying ourselves the company of people because they are not like us or do not think like us. I believe that this journey we are on largely involves learning through experiences with other souls. Granted, part of living a healthy life is about identifying people who may be harmful to us. But if this profiling is based purely on appearance, generational hate and ignorance we have no right to be spared the embarrassment of our bias.

It’s never too late to change our way of thinking. Muhammad Ali had it spot on!

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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