Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Book Talk | Dismantling White Supremacy Day 3


I began this book last week and would love to have discussions based on the prompts provided within the book. The book is set up so that after each day's reading, there are a handful of prompts to respond to. Feel free to respond to as many or as few as you like. I would love for this to be a discussion and a place where we can learn and grow together. Please be honest, because that is the only way anything will change.

Additionally, I have been compiling a list of books under the #BlackLivesMatter Reading List tab. I am usually adding books daily that I find, or are recommended by others. Please leave a comment on that page if you have titles to add. I hope you can find titles on this list that you will learn from as well.

Day Three Prompts

Tone Policing - a tactic used by those who have privilege to silence those who do not by focusing on the tone of what is being said rather than the actual content

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, eve if you don'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 conveyed?

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 should talk?

6. How have you discounted BIPOC in general because of the tone they use when they talk?

Let's talk!


  1. I actually had a really productive conversation with one of my co-workers about this. I'm known at work for saying it like it is. This has always been seen as a positive attribute for me. My co-worker, a Black woman, has a very similar personality but is often seen as "confrontational". We agreed that it is more about what she looks like than what she is actually saying. It is very eye-opening to me to see how I have benefited from doing the same thing someone else does, but they haven't gotten the same positive reaction. We must keep working and calling these things out!

    1. 100%! I think it is really great you have had this conversation with your co-worker and hopefully you can continue to have more and be productive in those. It's also great that you recognize for yourself that you are perceived differently - it is so important when we are doing this work that we see it for ourselves and do not expect BIPOC to point it out for us, whether it is the white fragility, white silence, tone policing, whatever.

  2. 1. To my knowledge I have never done this and would absolutely like to be informed if I have, though again that is not a burden I should place on a BIPOC. There's only one person in my life who I have ever said needed to fix the way he was talking to me, and he is definitely not a BIPOC.

    2. I tend to be pretty blunt and forceful with my opinions. I am very vocal about things I believe in, so it has not ever crossed my mind that anyone else should only talk a certain kind of way when it also comes to things they care deeply about.

    3. I don't think I have ever done this.

    4. Never. There is no 'right' tone when engaging in these conversations.

    5. I don't think I have. It is not my pain and anger and frustration, it is not my race being oppressed. I have no right to tell any BIPOC how to speak on the subject.

    6. Again, I don't think I have. Every group has its own/multiple strands of communication. That's not my place to tell someone from a different background how to go about speaking in a certain tone.

  3. One line that really resonated with me 'A white person's expression of anger is often seen as righteous, whereas a Black person's anger is often seen as aggressive and dangerous.' I have never reflected on this before, but yes, this is a bias I have. But what is the process of changing a bias? I know logically that my thinking is wrong, but my first instinct/first gut reaction before my thinking brain kicks in is 'this black person is being aggressive and dangerous'. Is it possible to have zero prejudices? Or is the goal to recognize your gut reaction and immediately modify your thinking? I think what would be helpful for me is to surround myself more with BIPOC culture...books, movies, music, etc. to have a wider representation of expressions to rely on, if that makes sense.

    There was a situation yesterday where I was driving down a residential street and there was a group of 7-8 year old black boys riding their bikes and playing in the middle of the street. I got a feeling of anger and annoyance, and I was harshly judging the parents for not watching them. But I immediately asked myself if I would have reacted differently if they had been white? And the answer was yes. I still would have been annoyed, but I would have felt more concern had they been white. And I had the feeling that the black kids were in the street to intentionally spite me/cause trouble, where I would have considered white kids to be more innocent/not have malice intent. And once again, I logically know that kids are kids and that race had nothing to do with it. But my gut reaction was definitely biased. (On a side note, I asked myself if I would have judged black teens vs. white teens the same in this scenario, and yes, I would have been equally annoyed at both with no difference).

    So yes, I'm racist, our society is racist, and I want to overcome this.


    1. I think that line is so powerful too. Why is our anger considered righteous, but a Black person's aggressive/dangerous? Because the world was made for white people and we have been conditioned that anyone who responds differently than a white person typically would is someone who is upsetting the order of things. This is a hard thing to overcome, but once we are more aware of it, I think bit by bit we will be able to change that thinking.

      I am honestly not sure if anyone could have zero prejudice at all, because everyone also has their own well of personal experiences that they draw on that either reinforce or destroy the stereotypes. I view the purpose of exercises like this as helping to recognize those thoughts when we have them in order to modify our thinking and change our perception. I don't necessarily think anyone can be 100% prejudice-free, but we can definitely change our own thinking.

      I think it is brave of you to share your initial reaction to the situation of the children playing. I am ashamed to admit it, but I have had similar reactions as well, and those thoughts/opinions have been informed by parent interactions I have had as a teacher with certain parents of my former students in regards to the 'where are their parents/why are they not watching their children and keeping them out of the street?" So, I guess in those situations my annoyance has been thoughts directed more at the parents than the children. And I agree - I am annoyed by teenagers NO MATTER WHAT. That is exactly why I will never teach above 6th grade.


Thanks for visiting my little book nook. I love talking books so leave a comment and let's chat!