TED Conversations

Caroline Phillips

CEO/President, Entrepreneur & muscian


This conversation is closed.

What can we do, as citizens to promote tolerance in our daily lives ?

You're in a meeting. Someone tells a joke ... it's about a jew, a black guy, that pushy feminist, that gay guy... What do you do ?

You're waiting in line and you see someone ethnic/different being badly treated by a bank teller/government worker/cashier.

You're at a party where Dave, your friend's husband is gay-bashing again.

At school, you hear a kid use a racial epithet when yelling at another kid.

What kind of attitude do you adopt ?
If you do say something... what do you say ?
How can and does your behavior affect others ?

If you have stood up for the underdog and for tolerance, how did it affect your relationship with friends, clients, business partners or significant others ?

Tolerance ... definition :
"The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."


Closing Statement from Caroline Phillips

Thank you all for your wonderful contributions to this conversation about Tolerance with a capital "T".

I've learned quite a bit from you and I think it's a wonderful testimony to the magic of TED that so many nationalities participated in this conversation. I feel a lot like Mary Saville : I too tend to get too emotional and engaged about intolerant things I'm hearing so I can produce the opposite effect and be too agressive and intolerant. I'll aspire to be more like Robert Jaffe when adressing intolerant people, to react swiftly but not humiliate.

Susan B. writes "Standing up for the underdog, does not make life happy for you. You are looked at as not being a team player, going against the norm and going against the grain."

My concluding thoughts : Unfortunately I don't live in a "TED world", so standing up for the underdog will often be a perilous endavour, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Hugs to all.

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  • May 1 2011: My comment here may be somewhat controversial but I believe, in a discussion like this, it needs to be put out there.

    I am a firm believer in the cliche of 'Live and Let Live.' It's simple, it's to the point. I understand that there are times that people must intervene, and I have done so in numerous occasions. But my question becomes, who are we to tell people how to live and what to think? Do you not find it somewhat hypocritical to tell people that they need to be tolerant while simultaneously being intolerant of that person's belief structure?

    There is a real push for everyone to be this way, and while I, myself, admit to having prejudice at times, I find myself to be quite tolerant most of the time. As a teacher you need to be. However, I find an ethical argument when it comes to telling people what to think and how to think?

    If you think about it, nobody enjoys being called names or being treated differently because of a look or a belief, but I feel that's how you, as a person, make judgments. If you were walking down the street at night and two figures come up to you, one dressed in black with long, dirty hair and you can barely see his face, while the other is well groomed and well lit, wearing a nice suit, wouldn't society judge and accept help from the man in the suit compared to the man in the dark? We all have it in us to make these types of judgments. It's natural, whether people like it or not, it's natural.

    I believe that the deeper issue that most people are trying to bring out in people is the idea that the world currently lacks empathy. It's a world that doesn't have to face their opponent while spewing racial slurs, or hateful comments. They can do it online. Perhaps if I weren't an anonymous face online I wouldn't be stating my opinion either. But if you think about it, wouldn't empathy for others take care of this problem? The majority of people do have a conscience.

    However, that idea just brings us back to the original dilemma.
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      May 2 2011: I completely understand your point of view, even though I don't share it, which is what makes for an interesting debate ! I come from a family where we regularly debated at the dinner table and took social risks by speaking out against racist comments and behaviour. It's never easy and sometimes I have to "Live and Let Live". Recently a client starting going off on a tangent about how a certain ethnic group was taking over France ... I ignored it once, twice and then said "I'm sorry, but I'm really uncomfortable with this conversation, I need you to keep your opinions to yourself on this subject"... and he did, and we went on with the meeting. However, he could have reacted badly, walked out and not paid me.

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