Take me off your Black friends list, please.
the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce: "The use of gay supporting characters is mere tokenism."
I have no idea how many Black, brown, or white friends I have. However, I cannot count the number of times that I have heard someone, typically a white person, respond to a question of equity, inclusion, or issues of racism with an accurate count of how many Black, brown, and LGBTQA+ people they count on their friendship roster. I hope if anyone is counting me on their list that, they remove me immediately if I am being used to absolve them of their responsibility to address the systemic racism and inequity in our communities. I do not want to be your token Black friend.
I attended a candidate forum hosted by one of our local pride organizations tonight. One of the candidates was warned directly about their consistent use of tokenism in response to issues of race and inequity; she quickly responded by itemizing her “gay” friends on the police force. What was so wild about the exchange was that the response was to tokenize further. I honestly feel that this behavior is so engrained in people connected to their whiteness that they aren’t even aware they are doing it. That was on perfect display tonight.
Tokenism doesn't do anything to promote diversity. Leading experts recognize that there are three significant adverse effects of tokenism in general:
Higher attention from others (leading to pressure)
Further separation from those in non-tokenized groups
Association of stereotypes with the group a tokenized individual belongs to
No one cares how many Black, brown, or LGBTQA+ friends you have. We care that you stand up for us when we aren’t in the room. We care if you show up as an ally, not if you show up to patronize our business and tell us we are “good people.” We do not need you to tell us that; we already know.
We need you to remove the barriers that keep us consistently behind and fighting for a space at the table. We need you to give us the education, resources, and respect to blaze our path. We need you to admit your wrongs and commit to doing right.
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