Mind the Gap – How to Converse with Intolerance

Ignorance and intolerance have reigned supreme over the past year, while those who are trying to combat this have been talked over. On a personal level, it can be incredibly difficult not to react to hatred, to keep your voice down even when what you are hearing takes away some of your inherent human value, debasing your existence on the foundation of your gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other reason. When a public or political figure says that they do not “have time for political correctness,” what they really mean is that they do not care if they offend a whole group of people because that group is not the majority. The most infuriating part is that people like this can still manage to win and keep leadership positions.


Hatred should never be ignored, should never be left unchallenged. However, the deep divisions within society on issues like racism, immigration, and sexual assault are not going to be solved by being offended and reacting to that offence. This does not mean to excuse people of their actions, or even to validate their opinion. This means that in order to bridge the gap that is ever widening between social groups, one must be prepared to listen and to understand. Trump supporters, those in the UK who voted to leave the EU, Marine Le Pen’s followers; they all have legitimate concerns that can be wrapped up in their own ignorance and also in the constant barrage of hate and misinformation that politicians have spewed throughout their campaigns.


For example, a large number of Americans that voted for Trump cited job security and an end to corrupt politicians as reasons for voting for him. By making sweeping statements like, ‘all Trump supporters are racist’ or women hating, or islamophobic—while likely true on a subconscious level—this will not positively impact these situations. Humanity has self-esteem issues. Criticism can be incredibly difficult to take. You cannot educate someone if you cannot even get them to listen to what you are saying and they will never listen if you are constantly criticising and belittling them for their opinions. Likewise, if you write everyone off as being hateful and intolerant, you miss the legitimate concerns fueling this rhetoric. A dialogue needs to be opened where everyone is respected, even if not all opinions hold the same amount of weight. The division that has been growing ever more apparent in western society cannot be solved if people refuse to even listen to each other, or will not speak and ask questions in fear of being labelled something negative. Being informed and educated on a topic will help you in convincing people but composure and patience are required to actually start the conversation.


Isha McDonnell