The experience of being ‘tolerated’ rather than accepted, leads to lower wellbeing among ethnic groups

Tolerance is often touted as a progressive value, a way of ensuring that society offers equal opportunities to all. But it can also imply “putting up with” something or someone you fundamentally disagree with or dislike — being tolerated isn’t the same as being genuinely valued or respected, for example. As one writer puts it, tolerance has echoes “of at best grudging acceptance, and at worst ill-disguised hostility”.

Now a new study in the British Journal of Psychology has found that the experience of being tolerated takes its toll on the wellbeing of ethnic minorities in the United States. Sara Cvetkovska from Utrecht University and colleagues find that the experience of being tolerated is closer to discrimination than it is to acceptance — impacting overall wellbeing and increasing negative mood. In the first study, the team looked at how wellbeing related to the experience of being tolerated, compared to being accepted or discriminated against outright. Participants were non-white, belonged to a racial or ethnic minority group, and ranged from 17 to 73 years old.

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