With the wave of social vocalism, specifically by or on behalf of minorities, the illusion of diversity is important for every organization to maintain a favorable public perception. Diversity statistics are often highlighted to prove faux inclusivity, otherwise known as tokenism.
Oxford Dictionary defines tokenism as “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 in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.”
In other words, tokenism stems from a misguided attempt to portray diversity, simply by giving the appearance of equality without actually achieving it. A common example of this is a person who attempts to excuse their racist behavior with the age-old argument, ‘My best friend is black.’ Another example is the individual who thinks sitting in the proximity of a homosexual couple without spewing homophobic epithets makes them an ally of the LGBTQIA community.
Recently, Texas State’s chapter of Turning Point USA, TPUSA, a right-wing student organization, was called out by Student Government’s Director of Diversity Outreach Eli Miller for perpetuating this false sense of inclusivity to make itself appear up on their diversity quota while not addressing issues affecting minorities.
TPUSA promoted itself as a Second Amendment-loving organization and welcoming students who did not want their right to carry arms infringed upon.
A student rebutted that the notion of the Second Amendment was created by the same people who enforced the enslavement of African-Americans, and therefore might be an outdated concept worth reconsideration.
Senator Miller added that the scope of the Second Amendment and its avid supporters tends fall short of the African American community, noting the murder of Philando Castile, a legal gun owner who disclosed he was licensed and carrying a weapon to police before they shot him, as an example of Second Amendment rights not applying to black people
TPUSA responded to criticism of their selectivity in advocating for gun rights by promoting Antonia Okafor, an African-American woman pro-Second Amendment speaker it had arranged to visit campus this semester.
This is a prime example of how tokenism operates. TPUSA is happy to parade a woman of color as a testament to the diversity of supporters who share their beliefs but remain utterly silent when that same demographic falls victim to a violation of the rights they so staunchly support. If the Second Amendment is the right of all Americans, it should be applied equally.
Similarly, NRATV, the news outlet for the National Rifle Association, aired a prerecorded interview with Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. Killer Mike is known for his revolutionary and conscious brand of alternative rap. His social activism includes advocating for economic equality and the need to dismantle the two-party system. The NRA, has never shown an ounce of interest or concern regarding the gun ownership rights of black people. But they utilized this interview with an African-American man speaking about minorities in this country and their gun rights to disparage the recent wave of anti-gun protests following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and March for Our Lives.
Diversity is meant to pull ideas, perspectives and strengths from a wide variety of communities. Tokenism will always remain an empty movement with no real impact beyond causing confusion and frustration. It allows a false sense of achievement. Putting one black face in front of 100 white ones is not diversity. It is not inclusion. It’s abusing and misusing minority existence to support stances that actively work against their safety. Empty visual politics cannot be considered action.
– Temi Ikudayisi is a public relations senior