What do we really mean when we talk about acceptance? There are two common definitions of the word. First: the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. Second: the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
The first can easily describe a lot of simple scenarios in our day-to-day lives. For example, we are accepted into college, we accept job offers, and often, we accept things we want or like.
However, the second definition isn’t too different from the first. We receive people, just like jobs or other offerings, that we think are adequate or “worthy” of our own time or different lifestyles. The main difference is that the second definition implies that acceptance is a complementary action and reaction. There is the acceptor that, based on their own values, chooses to acknowledge someone for who they are. And then there is the accepted, who, if they choose to be true to who they are, have no way to ensure that they will be accepted.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t forget that the idea of “acceptance” has come to replace tolerance. However, the overtone of a week that is entitled “Acceptance Week,” is still condescending.
This special week asks the public to accept certain “types” of people that are often looked down upon by others or made to feel that their differences somehow make them less of a human. However, it isn’t really a matter of accepting, in terms of the second definition where one person has the power to accept another purely on what they believe to be adequate. This week should be focused only on equality, or not be implemented at all. Our goal as a complex species should not be acceptance, but equality. Unlike acceptance, equality suggests that no special attention needs to be paid to any certain group, but rather everyone is equal and should be treated in a manner that respects this equality. No one should be thought to be inferior or superior to another based on differences, whether attained at birth or learned throughout life.
Rather than an Acceptance Week, a week focused on diversity to help broaden students’ perspectives on all types of people in the world would be more beneficial. Without calling on one group to plan a whole week of activities, students from different walks of life could collaborate to create an environment at school in which people would want to listen and be open to their peers more than one week out of the year.
Everyone is unique and everyone is special, and celebrating these differences by learning more about each other is something we should strive to do every day. By having a high profile week where emphasis is put on accepting one another outwardly and in an extremely open way, people that are not comfortable in their school environment could be left to feel upset or unsafe. While it is important for people to be aware of how others are mistreated because of their differences, it is even more important that the ideals of equality and respect are enforced day to day, not just one week out of the year. These are the ideals that will influence students to be more open minded.