On Tolerating Ignorance

The other day my cousin who lives in Chicago sent me a message telling me about her recent visit to Florida. She’s been living in the States for 6 years and there were only few occasions where she mentioned having racially charged encounters. But in her recent messages she said there were too many racists in Florida and that people in Chicago were much more friendly and educated.

My cousin wears a head scarf (commonly known as Hijab, a word I don’t really like for linguistic reasons), other than that nobody would know she’s an Arab or a Muslim. And that got me thinking that, if I were her, would I stop wearing a headscarf, which is part of the dress code in Islam as far as I believe – and I’m not here to discuss this issue- so would I take it off just so I wouldn’t look different and so that people will leave me alone and mind their own business?

Theoretically at least, my answer would be No. Simply because you can’t stop doing what you believe to be right in order to tolerate other people’s ignorance. The bigotry and resentment they harbor is their problem, not mine. Why do I accept having people from all around the world in my country wearing whatever they want, and I deal with them with friendliness? It’s the same thing.

Another important point is that to change the way you dress just for the sake of not having to be different would be hypocrisy on my part, as a person who constantly defies social standards and criticizes norms and traditions. If you dare to be different inside your society, you shouldn’t shy away from it when you’re outside of your comfort zone.

And this goes for anything really. Anytime you feel like you’re giving something up for the sake of being accepted by people who are just too narrow minded to accept you as the person you are as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then think again.

Anyway, my advice to her was that whenever she faces one of these bigots, just smile at them, it’s a like a message that says: “I feel sorry for you, and I hope that one day you will be able to see the human beings behind those clothes or that skin color  that obstructs your vision”

5 responses

  1. That is a good advice! If the person in front of you is being racist/judging then there is slim chance of him/her being willing to listen to the (why) this outfit/practice/etc.. is; so no point of communicating and hence a decision to not waste time and simply (smile) or walk away is a grand thing to do (even if it is mistakenly interpreted as a flee).

    I guess it is similar to the beard with guys, you do get stares and comments (giggles too)
    from people around you and sometimes you opt to have a small talk (even to a stranger)
    and (try to) explain. Mainly it doesn`t work! For most of such kind of ignorant people they don`t have an argument and if you start showing that they are -at least- hypocrite and on a high point of double-standardism they would ridicule you and it might even escalate.

    Where we are now, people do make some comments but SOME of them are willing to listen! U hear lines like: (u can show your hair now, there is nothing wrong in that, u r away from home and no one can force you, at least enjoy the freedom whilst u r here) OR (come on, if not having a drink, just come with us to the pub, no one will stone you for it!)

    The problem is -to me- that when you react to such incidents, you got to be aware that if you fall prey to the same “I`m right and u r pathetically wrong syndrome” and start preaching like you are coming from a higher (highest?) moral/humane/existential perspective or prism then u won`t go far (and in a way u r not that much different in your mentality from that opposing person(s) either)!

    El muhim, take away lesson: avoid Florida, embrace Chicago, sa7?
    and in all cases get armed with appreciating others` views + your own time too 🙂

    • I think you should never get defensive, and if anyone asks why you have a beard or why you’re covering your hair just say: Because I like it, or because I want to. If they really want to know they can google it

      • Correct, one should not get defensive.
        In a way, if you ask them to google it then probably you will miss on the/a chance to explain it to them -if u are equipped- on a face-to-face basis, which is essential -in my view- in such cases. Saying go & google it on that context might very much send a unwanted msg, one can demonstrate his/her convictions about such a topic and who knows, it might path a way for a mind-changing new personality.

  2. FLorida is where rich repbuLicans hangouT. caLi is where they are more reLaxed about peopLe being MusLims, she shouLd have vacationeD there insTeaD 🙂

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