LENT. Day 3.
DO NOT TONE POLICE.
—— What is tone policing? ——
It is that moment in a conversation when someone detracts from the validity of a person’s statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.*
Here’s one way to understand how tone policing might feel… Will you imagine with me? Imagine if the tables were turned, and how what I describe below might FEEL.**
What if every white person you had ever known and loved had been consistently talked down to, disrespected, and abused? What if everywhere they went, everything they did was under a microscope? The clothes you all wore, how your hair was done, the way you pronounced any and every word was criticized and used as a tool to criticize everyone who looks like you? The names you gave your children were mocked. The traditions you loved and your culture had been lost or erased… Imagine, the holidays you love – gone; all the music your people made – claimed by the people who oppressed you (and all your people…) made into their popular culture, taken as their own.
What if the only stories you ever saw as a child of heroes looked NOTHING LIKE YOU? What if all the stories you ever saw and heard of people who looked like you were stories of slaves – where the oppressor was made out to be the hero? Every piece of history you were taught featured “heroes” who had hurt your people – either directly, and maliciously, or indirectly and systematically.
What if you couldn’t raise your children without an absolute, completely reasonable fear that they might be killed for misspeaking or making a wrong move, while trying desperately to do the right thing? That your children would never be given a chance to explain themselves, never be given the benefit of the doubt. Because all the stories of the whole culture said that your people are dangerous, that they’re prone to violence, that they can’t be trusted – simply because of the color of your skin. Because of something that you can literally do nothing to control. A way that you were born… that the Creator of the universe made you, whom He calls a masterpiece.
What if your brother, or father, or uncle, or grandfather missed the entirety of your childhood in prison for a crime solicited by a person of another race – who received no consequences? What if they all missed it? What if your people were targeted, and watched constantly, the authorities looking harder at you all for mistakes while ignoring the same crimes committed by people of other races?
What if every time you tried to talk about how hard this was, you were silenced, argued with, or told to calm down?
After 400 years generations of your family and friends having been kidnapped, stolen, enslaved, abused, raped, murdered, and oppressed… What if all the other people thought it was over? Told you it was over – told you it’s “BETTER NOW?” But it isn’t, because you still live the effects of it every single day? What if it just changed appearance, and they don’t even realize it?
You’d have every reason to be angry.
And sad. And afraid.
And every reason to shout from the rooftops.
And lose your temper.
And refuse to be silent.
And you’d hope against hope that the “other” people would actually listen, would understand, and maybe even help change things.
But instead, they interrupt you and tell you to calm down so they can hear what you’re saying.
Years. Generations. Countless deaths.
Silent didn’t work.
Singing, beautifully, while being oppressed, didn’t work.
Calm didn’t work.
Let them be angry if they need to. Listen, anyway, intently, as uncomfortable as it might make you.
You’d be angrier than you could possibly imagine if you’d experienced what they had.**
* Tone policing, defined
** I know this only skims the surface of what people of color have experienced in our culture and in your history. I truly gave it my best for now. I hope to grow and understand better, more, and deeper in the hours, days, and years to come.
Here’s a pretty great comic strip depiction of tone policing that should help you understand more, too.