Me and White Supremacy : Day 3 Journal Questions
I’m leading a group discussion circle on “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. I’m taking the journaling challenge daily throughout February even though I’m not white. If you happen to be white, why not take the challenge? If I can do it, you can do it too.
Day 3 Questions (from the text):
1. How have you used tone policing out loud to silence, shut down, or
dismiss BIPOC? What kinds of words have you used to describe what
tone a BIPOC should use?
2. What tone policing thoughts have you harbored inside when you’ve heard
BIPOC talk about race or their lived experiences, even if you didn’t say
them out loud?
3. How have you derailed conversations about race by focusing on how
someone said something to you rather than what they said to you?
Looking back now, why do you think the tone that was being used was
more important to you than the content of the information being
4. How often have you made your willingness to engage in antiracism work
conditional on people using the “right” tone with you?
5. How have you discounted BIPOC’s real pain over racism because the
way they talk about it doesn’t fit with your world view of how people
6. How have you discounted BIPOC in general because of the tone they use
when they talk?
- — -
“You’re so eloquent”
“you sound so well educated”
“You speak in such a nice way”
[Insert compliment regarding my oration and dictation here]
This is a trait I’ve learned to weaponize. And the results of doing so leave me with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, white people intuitively understand that I speak their language. I grew up speaking it, hearing it all around me. Knowing what words and cadences to use for maximum effect has become second nature — I’ve had a lifetime of practice. If you’ve heard me speak, notice that I almost never raise my voice, even to get a point across. If anything my points are punctuated with pauses and a lower tone. This isn’t an accident. I know well the effects that a raised voice from a large black man can have on the psyche’s subconscious in the white mind. I’ve seen this conditioning play out time and time again, and know how to sidestep those pitfalls. I know that when people say they appreciate listening to me, that HOW I deliver my message plays a large part in that.
On the other hand, all this means is I’ve become an expert at censoring myself. Better at catering and fostering the negative traits I am being so careful to avoid inciting. Helping to de-legitimize all the other voices that are at the other end of the tone spectrum from me, but still just as valid.
I feel it would be inauthentic to change my speaking style, but damn if this doesn’t cross my mind each and every time. ESPECIALLY when the praise comes. The line I try to balance on is to stay in keeping with my own authentic voice, while not also sugar coating what I am saying. Directness is directness whether it’s shouted or whispered. So I choose my words even more carefully than before — not to avoid summoning the tone police, but to challenge them head on. It’s an ongoing process I’m still working to define.
I do know this — if someone ever has the audacity to tell me to explain myself in a different way, my simple response will be: