what is tone policing?

Here are some terms that get thrown around quite a bit these days.


white privilege

tone policing

echo chamber


post-racial society

For the record, these are my opinions and I am mostly writing as a means of stress release and less to change minds. So there’s that.

I have met a lot different people in my life. Bad-ish, good-ish- etc. They have been people of color, white people, mixtures of racial background. I have met people of all varying religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. What do we all have in common?

Nobody wants to be told how to feel. Our reactions should be our own, right? Should our feelings ever be invalidated? Mostly we don’t think so. Are there exceptions?

My opinion- check the motivation behind the reaction.

Why am I happy that something has happened? Is it because others lost? Is it because I was right? Is it because because I got what I wanted at the expense of others? If your positive reaction is rooted in someone else’s failure: that might be an exception.

Tone policing, to me, is when Person A has a statement or a reaction to an event and a separate person (Person B) informs A that what they have said is either offensive or insensitive. So wait-


Tempting right? Both actions, in fact, are incredibly tempting. Unsurprisingly- I have been person A and person B. So when is tone policing ok? When is my feeling to statement deserving of being checked. Are we all too sensitive? Maybe.

Knee-jerk reactions have become more and more common to the buzz words I mentioned above. Well-meaning Person B’s often hear our Person A friends saying something tinged with privilege or white privilege and we Bs feel that it is our duty to point out whichever portion of A’s sentiment is faulty. Is that person B’s place? Here’s when I think it is.

If person A is going to hurt someone physically or verbally because of their views I think it’s important to intervene.

If person A explicitly asked for your opinion, then absolutely.

If person A is a close friend of yours and you’re cool like that.

It’s unsolicited tone policing that lead to impossible arguments about bias.

It’s unsolicited tone policing to false narratives of reverse racism.

And often it is what leads to seeing really awful sides of people you know, or worse yourself.

It also what is causing the great communication divide of our country. For example: I post an article about white privilege thinking, “there are some person A’s who really need to read this and then they’ll GET IT.”

They will not. And frankly they don’t want to. The connotations surrounding the topic of the words race/racism/privilege/white privilege are so caustic that the conversation can’t even begin.

We need to get away from telling each other how to react and get towards understanding WHY people have that POV. Or we need to ignore each other and stop pretending we want to doanything other change each others minds to match our own.

I think our country will be better off if we stop having social media emotional blitzkriegs and get to the root of each other’s feelings. One caveat to that is the lack of common ground due to the mass spreading of false information over the internet. If we are ever going to come together with our families and friends (many of us who have cut ties this election season) we need to get away from anything that is youtube video or a blog as evidence. Misinformation is everywhere on ALL sides of the political, religious and emotional spectrum. It’s been said many times, but if you read an article that immediately affirms or confirms what you already believe, question it.

All this said, people are hurting out there and people are happy out there. Some people are protesting and some people are calling for citizens to unite under our democracy. They all deserve their reactions and they are right in their emotions. We just need to check our own motives and motivation.