When the push for tolerance faces opposition

In Opinion
Courtesy of MCT


Elementary and middle school memories, although tinged with rosy nostalgia, can harbor some suppressed pain; a pain often with its origins in some form of childhood bullying.

Though it’s an issue that persists today, many groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Teaching Tolerance, have consistently worked toward minimizing exclusion by spreading acceptance to students at a young age. Anti-bullying campaigns such as the “Mix it Up at Lunch Day” event—an initiative that encourages school children to break down social boundaries—would seem a godsend to those going through the struggles of growing up.

Yet sadly, a group that claims to represent God is condemning these efforts.

The American Family Association (AFA)—a Mississippi-based Christian group—has spoken out against “Mix it Up at Lunch Day.” Its mission, according to its website is “to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture.” The group claims the event’s purpose is to spread a homosexual agenda. Though only conjecture exists to support the claims, the New York Times reported around 200 schools had cancelled their plans for the event after the AFA began circulating this “knowledge.”

One might argue that the event, which will happen at schools around the country on Oct. 30, does take a bit of parental power out of guardians’ hands. Students at participating schools will ostensibly be forced to sit with a random peer (through school organized selection process.)

But therein lies the conundrum, “Mix it Up at Lunch Day’s” randomness.

A student has just as much chance of being paired up with a homosexual student as they do with a heterosexual one; they have as much chance of being paired up with a student who practices a different religion as they do with one who follows their same faith.

That alone seems to negate the assertion that the event promotes indoctrination of children into a single lifestyle, but if the AFA were truly clever, the group would utilize the event as a way in which to promote its own agenda. For a single day, a child whose guardian supports the AFA might be paired up with another who does not and could easily do the same thing the group has imagined SPLC is doing.

Despite the opposition, some 2,500 are reportedly still backing “Mix it Up at Lunch Day”—a number that continues to grow in the 11 years since the event’s inception according to the Times. It is also notable that not all schools that either refuse to participate or have pulled out since the AFA debacle necessarily support the group’s ideology, though it is difficult  to see this as anything but a win for opponents.

Of course, this is the political and ideological argument one must get bogged down in when viewing this initiative through such a jaded lens. Really, when it comes to conditioning children—our future generations—to the reality of bigotry and social inequality, we should not be counting wins and losses.

At the real heart of the matter are the efforts of SPLC and Teaching Tolerance to integrate young peoples from all walks of life into a sphere of tolerance. If only for one day, school children might feel what it’s like to be on the other end of the social spectrum and at least be granted the opportunity to learn from it.

They might, as kids often do, completely miss the point and learn nothing, but at the very least they would have the opportunity; not necessarily to accept, but to tolerate going forward.

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