Why tone matters, and why it shouldn’t
I understand that the race thing is important to people, and they have every right to have it be important to them, but there is a point where their form if showing it is obnoxious.
Yes, I understand that Korra’s skin tone is a controversial topic, and there are people who actively speak out against the use of the word “tan.” That is not what this post is about. This post is about the actions and behaviors of those who fight for this topic.
I give credit to those in the fandom who speak out against what they perceive to be whitewashing. I use the word perceive very loosely, because there are people out there, including myself, who don’t use (and never intend/intended) the word “tan” to offend people, so we don’t think it’s offensive. Granted, I am well aware that it does in fact give some the impression that I, and others, am/are giving it a somewhat offensive connotation, so there is not point in debating it.
However, I have Tumblr friends that fight for this cause with a mature fashion, and use their calm, yet imformational tone, to get their point across. Sadly, not everyone who supprts the cause does that. There are people who feel that the proper course of action is to use infinite caps lock with angered and somewhat aggressive tones to get their point across. Some people have even resorted to tagging things that have nothing to do with Korra in the Korra tags simply because it has to do with shadeism/whitewashing.
When I see these sort of things, and I’m willing to bet I’m not alone, I don’t want to listen. I want to yell at you, or ignore you for your arrogance. I want to fume in your ask box, and tell you how much I hate what you’ve posted. The second you get offensive, arrogant, or simply obnoxious is the second I take my listening cap off.
So, with that said, I give you some advice. Take a note from history.
Ghandi was peaceful. Martin Luther King Jr. was peaceful. They both got what they went out to achieve.
Do you really think that posting screams of obnoxious rantings is going to get you anything? To be honest, I haven’t changed anything about what I think or how I act based on posts like that. My thoughts and actions have been altered by those who are civil, and actually strive to be understood.
Screaming in rage is not something I understand, nor do I want to. To be honest, I’d be willing to think that people on your own side of the issue find it somewhat embarrassing that they have to read that too. It doesn’t make your cause look very good, or appealing.
All in all, I’m not trying to offend your cause, because I think it’s a good one. I’m just saying that if you want something done about it, try to rethink how you’re going about it.
You wonder why people think the topic as a whole is annoying? It’s because of posts rant and rage and give no facts or information about the topic.
Please. Just…. rethink what you’re doing.
Ah, Gandhi and MLK. They were advocates of non-violence, but they were never deferrent. They navigated this conflict between tone and presentation pretty well. They led massive protests and walked the streets. History remembers them as peaceful, we remember them as non-threatening and respect them for it. (Although, I would argue that caplocks on tumblr is even less confrontational than Gandhi and MLK.) But there we still people out there who didn’t like their tone. They were both still shot. Whether they achieved what they wanted is debatable. They cared about tone—but not for the reasons that you think.
Is the tone argument derailing? Absolutely. Does tone matter? Absolutely. Yes.
Tone matters, but not the way the OP understands it to matter. Tone matters, because people with privilege use “tone” as an excuse not to listen to you. “Regardless of the content of what you said or the validity of your argument, because you did not say it the exact way I wanted to, I will invalidate you.” Or, “I didn’t intend for it to be offensive and I don’t find it offensive. What I do find offensive is your tone.” (eg. “I get to decide what is offensive.”)
This puts the responsibility on the oppressed. It suggests to people of color, to women, to gays, to any oppressed group that “if only they had confronted the discrimination they faced in a better (more tactical, more appeasing, etc.) tone, maybe the people who ignored them would have listened. It teaches them that they should not burden others with their stories. It teaches them that they are in part responsible for their oppression due to their poor use of tone, even though they have no power over how someone labels their tone and even less power over how they are treated. Which, come on. Deciding whether or not to listen is a choice. If the decision to ignore injustice hinges on someone’s tone…
It is very difficult to avoid this trap. It means playing offense and defense at the same time. The easiest thing to do is to try and given people fewer opportunities to attack your tone. But make no mistake: this also means capitulating to the same oppressive power dynamic that is silencing you in the first place. In addition to the outsiders who will police your tone, you begin to watch your own tone. Tone becomes a tool you use to amplify your voice and oppress yourself at the same time.
You stifle your outrage, your defense mechanisms, your right to speak out. You train yourself to talk about discrimination with a brilliant smile. You live with the anxiety and reality that they may slam your tone anyway, ignore you, anyway.
They remind you that they listen to you only because they are benevolent enough to tolerate your pleasant tone. Perhaps they will even give you benevolent advice on how to talk about your experiences, all while reminding you that while experiencing discrimination is not optional for you, listening is optional for them. That before they care about your pain, you have to remember to please them, first, by respecting their right not to be annoyed by you. You must be deferent to be viewed as worthy of consideration, goes the advice.
You allow them to argue that the way you say it is more important than what you are saying. Because the majority has deemed that only certain tones are appropriate when discussing these issues. Because those with power get to dictate how the victims talk about their own oppression. And you want to believe that maybe, maybe if you just say it the right way, this one time…people will listen.
Non-Violence is not the same as Non-Confrontation.
And before we get into a Gandhi/MLK love-in, can we remember that White People love to hold up Gandhi and MLK in the same way as the Morgan Freeman “Stop talking about race” speech. As a derailment. As a way to stifle discussion, invalidate argument, and ultimately to change the discussion from the concerns and ideas of POC to the way in which they were presented or the feelings of White People.