Be aware of those who say “now is not the time”. Notice who decries “this is not the way”. Remember who wants you to change how you speak of injustice so that it’s more palatable for them to hear. Recognize who discredits your fears because they are not their own. Understand that all of this is just another way to demand your silence.
Time and time again I’ve seen tone policing rear its ugly head to quiet the sharing of trauma and pain, or injustice and oppression. Focusing on the way a message is delivered rather than its content is used to insidiously sidestep what’s really at stake. It decenters issues of social, racial, gender and environmental justice — sometimes deliberately — by those who do not face the same realities and fears as the people they are trying to persuade that action should wait.
But action cannot wait.
Even if they’d wish it so, the timeline to create and protect equality, equity and liberation is not in the hands of those who would rather you weren’t so angry, so fearful, so emotional, so passionate — so truthful. There are many different types of privileges that exist in society, and being in a position where you believe you can tell other people how they should respond to their own encounters with injustice or their fears for the future is one of them. It’s also extremely dismissive and offensive. Even if no harm is meant, intent does not negate impact.
We’re living in a very divisive time that is bringing into stark focus the realities of political, institutional and systemic policies, provisions and power that are not beneficial for everyone. Realizing this can be uncomfortable, especially if we ourselves benefit from how our society is structured while others don’t. It’s on us to work through that uneasiness and not tone police the words of those who take the time to raise awareness.
If we’re lucky enough to be in a position to learn about injustice rather than experience it, then we should stand beside any individual or any group that does not have the same protections against it as we do. We must educate ourselves and be a part of meaningful action.
Silence doesn’t raise everyone up, fight for justice or celebrate our diversity — it’s a tool used to stiffle all these things — so now is the time to call out tone policing and help create something better.
Do you step in when someone is tone policing somebody else? Have you caught yourself focusing on how the person is speaking/makes you feel rather than what they’re saying?
How To Identify Tone Policing in the Workplace — Business Insider
What Is Tone Policing & Why It’s Wrong — Feminism India
If you enjoy reading Transatlantic Notes and would like to show your support for the work being done, please consider making a small donation. Thank you.