Confronting Racism

 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Social Activist for Racial Equity

Facilitating Discussions about Racism







Tokenism is one way in which white people try to prove to others that they are not racist because they support people of color in some way. They give the impression of being supportive of racism by including a few people of color in their organizations or social circles in order to prove their white exceptionalism. Layla Saad states that "In the case of white supremacy, tokenism essentially uses (people of color) as props or meaningless symbols to make it look like antiracism is being practiced while continuing to maintain the status quo of white as the dominant norm."(p.143) 


She continues later to explain the harmful effects of tokenism by stating that "Tokenism of (people of color) is a white supremist act because it still places (people of color) as objects that can be used to further a white person's or organization's agenda, and it protects people of white privilege from having to do the work of disrupting white dominance. Tokenism looks flattering on the outside, but the truth of it is that it uses (people of color) as if they are things, not people. Tokenism says that (people of color) are only valuable to people with white privilege to the degree that they can be used for their own agenda (whether consciously or unconsciously)." (p. 146)   


Having an understanding of tokenism and the harm it does people of color and the ways it supports the white supremist norms is further confirmation that we need to be aware of our motiviations and biases to really help put an end to racism in our society. 

Copyright © 2020   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.