In Her Words is an ongoing series consisting of short essays on issues affecting us in present day. Have an idea that you think would make a good addition to IHW? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was in the Netherlands when 9/11 occurred and within days, I personally got my first backlash about Muslims because of my ethnicity. Born Muslim, raised Catholic; from an orphanage in Pakistan to a Dutch family, most of my life I had grown up feeling like an outsider. But now I was floored because my clients were scared of the possibility that I might be Muslim. At that time, I defended myself by saying I was adopted and Catholic. But I should not have said anything.
I soon realized you cannot defend yourself against another person’s bias. That is a lost cause.
Today, post-election, we hear and see this bias through students chanting on a video that went viral, “Build that wall!” Or images floating about on social media of graffiti with swastikas. There are too many more to name here. Is racism and hatred truly on the rise?
No, it is not on the rise. I believe it has simply been exposed by this election.
Throughout my life, I have learned something the Trump election is now making evident to so many: Tolerance does not work. Because tolerance is not the opposite of intolerance. Tolerance is truly only a very polite way of being intolerant. Anyone who has been tolerated but not accepted will understand this to be true.
One example I like to use to illustrate this is that there is almost no country in the world that does not have immigrants. When all is well and there are no economic hardships, nobody seems to care about how many there are, where they work, or laws relating to them—they are tolerated. But when we hit hard times, then everybody wants them out. This shows the problems of tolerance and how it is a far cry from true acceptance. This faulty view of tolerance and intolerance is now being exposed.
But rather than trying to understand and search for solutions on these sensitive issues, it is easier for many of us to be reactive. We allow fear, generalization of how we see others and irrational judgment take the driver’s seat. We react to others with fear-based reactions, and they react to us in the same way.
So how do we overcome this fear-based communication? It just takes one little shift: First, recognize when you are coming from a fear-based perspective. The unknown can cause us to feel anxious, true. But when you acknowledge fear, the fear will diminish. Why? Because it strips us down to our emotions—and then we can remember that 75 percent of the population feels some of these same emotions at any given time. This is how we can work to let go of judgements and go beyond tolerance to acceptance.
The leading voice of the Kindness movement, Gabriella van Rij (gabriella.global) is a speaker, author & activist for kindness whose presentations blend humor, original analogies and her life story to create a rare perspective-shifting experience that speaks to all and that provides the tools audiences need for more productive relationships. Gabriella has been seen by millions on Dr. Phil, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. Watch Your Delivery is her third and latest book on the secrets to effective communication.