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Valley Perspective : To Teach Mere Tolerance Is Not the Answer to Society’s Violence : It is not enough to put up with those we dislike or with whom we disagree. Human beings need respect and that requires understanding.

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Barbara Perkins, who lives in Sylmar, is a community activist and parent

So much has been said and done in reaction to yet another unexplainable, senseless act of violence against innocent people in our community. My overwhelming fear causes me to reach deep inside, where I know the answer to how we move forward lies.

What I find are questions that must be answered by those of us who mean well and call ourselves leaders. Two questions that this Granada Hills shooting have made me answer for myself are: Am I really doing all that I can to make things better? Is teaching tolerance the right thing to do? The answer to both is no.

As a girl growing up on the beautiful island of the Bahamas, where most of the people were shades of brown or black, there was no hint of racism. I had no understanding of this concept until I returned to America at age 16. What I did understand, however, was classism. There were the haves and the have-nots. My extended family fell into the latter category, but it was always clear to me that your status in life was what you wanted it to be. I knew from an early age that I had a choice to be whatever I wanted to be. The only thing that could or would stop me was me.

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An early experience that has occupied my thinking in recent days is the deep-rooted hurt I felt when, at 10 years old, I knew I was being tolerated by persons from whom I really wanted acceptance. It saddens me to think of the daily energy that I put into changing how these very loving people felt about me. I did not want to be tolerated. I wanted and needed to be understood and appreciated for who I knew I was as a human being.

Teaching tolerance is temporary. It is judging another human being against your standards and simply putting up with what you may not like or agree with. Tolerance does not last. It is the minimum you can give, and it has to be monitored.

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We need respect for each other. People want to be understood and recognized for their particular uniqueness or difference. Respect comes with understanding, and understanding takes time and effort. Understanding is not simply putting up with me, but getting to know enough about me to appreciate what makes me who I am. These are the lessons I believe we should be teaching children as young as the youngest victim of the North Valley Jewish Community Center shootings.

Kelsey and Cody, my 11- and 9-year-olds, provide me the opportunity to teach from the heart. They would be the benefactors of a much greater and better community if this were our collective, immediate response every time a child or innocent person is harmed.

We should be outraged by the Granada Hills and Chatsworth shootings, today and every day similar acts occur. My commitment is stronger than ever: I will do whatever is possible to create an environment that puts sick people like the one who committed these acts on notice; I won’t stand around, do nothing and live in fear.

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