Tone Policing People of Colour
When White people try to dismiss Indigenous and other people of colour’s (POC) discussion of colonialism and its present-day impact by focusing on “tone,” that’s racism at work. Tone policing is when members of majority groups focus on the language and perceived emotion of marginalised or underrepresented groups during discussions of inequality. The majority group sees themselves as entitled to infer “illegitimate” arguments based solely on the words being used, rather than the meaning of what is being said. This is an attempt to silence or derail discussions, to shift power away from the lived experiences and knowledge of minorities or disempowered groups.
On my latest blog post, I discuss a recent example where a White Australian woman felt a need to tell me that they refused to read an article I’d tweeted, which was written by an Indigenous woman author. The title was White “Australia” Has a Black Future. I didn’t tweet the article to this woman and she doesn’t follow me. Yet because it was being shared by others, she felt a need to comment to me, a non-Indigenous woman of colour, that the title was “offensive.” She said: “We need to maintain civilities.”
She continued to argue for hours that there are nicer ways to discuss Indigenous issues without putting “allies” like her offside with language. The article is about the history of Australia. Everything is fact. There is no offensive language—no swear words; no hate speech. So what exactly is offensive about a Black woman talking about the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Especially during Reconciliation Week, where Australia reflects on Indigenous rights issues?
If White people can’t handle POC talking about racism, it doesn’t matter what words we use; the issue you have is that we’re talking at all. There’s no “nice” way to talk about racism. Racism is structural; it envelops us; it ruins the life chances of POC. There’s nothing “positive” about racial inequality.
White people who imagine there’s a “rational” way they deem acceptable to hear discussion of racism is actually them saying they want to dictate how POC express their lived experiences and knowledge of racial oppression. As POC point out all day, every day, White people put more effort into policing discussion of race so they don’t have to work on themselves.
Read more on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2017/06/17/tone-policing-people-of-colour
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#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #inclusion #diversity #poc #indigenous #tonepolicing #whiteness #racism #australia #reconciliationweek #history