Tone Policing: Explained

Racism is not always overt, in so many words.

We live in some turbulent times, if that is not already known. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered some people to reveal their true colors. Boy, we cannot say that enough, can we? More than ever, inequality/police violence has never been more prevalent in our modern times. However, racism in the US can be sooo much more than that.

What is Tone Policing?

Traditional definition of tone policing goes something like this:

“Tone policing is when someone tries to diminish the validity and importance of a statement by attacking the tone in which it is said and presented, instead of the message itself.” — Shambhavi Raj Singh

It is no secret that some people judge a person and decide how much respect the person should be paid based on their accent/voice/cultural mannerism. I, like many other minorities have been a victim of this tone policing. I work in software development. This means, I have spent some of my younger years working at the help desk. There has been quite a few times where myself and other colleagues have been discredited by the customers calling in.

Based on our accents, the customers would immediately ask us if we are “outsourced” contractors from India/ China. (Note: This is a very dumb assumption since they have called a federal government office, it just happens so that it full of different types of Asians).Then regardless of the helpful advice we give based on their issues, the customer would ask for our managers (Very “Karen” like behavior). Our management in the past had been transparent, telling us that some of the customers thought we lacked validity in our message because of our very Asian accents.

We do not sound like “nice white people”.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Tone Policing

BLM protestors (majority peaceful) have been voicing their rights to not get shot by police officers for no apparent reason other than being black. They are protesting for a future where their children do not have to tell their children to “be careful not to act too black” for the fear of getting arrested or shot. Therefore, rightfully so, the protestors are outraged. I am outraged. Everyone should be outraged. What in the actual fuck that we need to be afraid of law enforcement, whose job is to serve/protect/ de-escalate.

Therefore, the message is to not kill people for being black, because black people are just as much of humans like anyone else in this whole universe. However, outlets like Fox News, Trump lovers and other critics of the BLM movement are soo totally guilty of tone policing. They do not even consider the validity of the message. No, they are too busy talking about the fucking traffic patterns, loud mannerisms, few instances of riots and “being ghetto”.

When horrible things are happening in this world, we do not have time to “speak so well”, what does that even mean?!

What Tone Policers Can Do

If you are part of this demographic, I encourage you to focus on what and why is being said. If one actually took the time to look past their differences, biases and ignorance — it may just occur that the message itself is not something to be dismissed/ criticized over. Weirdly enough, as crazy these times are, I remain hopeful. Hopeful that one day, our differences in speech will not be regarded as loud/obnoxious/weird or whatever bad adjective you can insert here. We deserve to live in a world where we are respected regardless of sex, orientation, creed, race and tone.

Jill of all Traits. Federal Employee. Software Development. Night Owl. Not Vegan. Cat Lover. Artist. Daughter. Sister.

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