How Tokenism Dehumanizes Minorities

Tokenism is defined as actions that are result of pretending to give advantage to underrepresented people or group of people in society who are often treated unfairly, in order to give the appearance of fairness.

The term token is derived from the Old English word taken, which means “to show.” Thus tokenism exists because inclusion of the person or group is required or expected, not because of inherent values or flair.

It simply gives an aspect of equality without attaining it. If someone says they are not racist and to justify that, they point out one of their black friend or acquaintance who they have good relations with. Similarly if a person having a gay friend makes them an LBGTQ community supporter or a company manager appointing female workers to prove that he or she is not a sexist.

Tokenism has an impact of uncertainty and perplexity but nothing real. It gives a false sense of achievement to an individual as a unit of society.

Such empty movements can’t possibly be considered action. Simply checking an item stating equality off a list to protect an organisation’s public image isn’t adequate.

After all, diversity was never confined to skin tone or gender. Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing one’s individual differences. It was meant to pull ideas and ardour out of people. Together, these people from different backgrounds could innovate and dream up really astonishing solutions. Diversity was supposed to have an impact, to make a difference and turn out to be an effective movement for the society. The ripples of tokenism has jeopardized the purpose of it and it has been felt in every direction.

“In a 2014 Huff Post piece, writer Marilyn Nagel took corporate America to task for using female executives as a way to avoid criticism — instead of hiring them for their talents.”

Each company should look for the best person to fill an open position — first and foremost. Every work place should have a priority of appointing the best person for a suitable job but also should be open to the vast options they have. According to the researches when members of the underrepresented group comprise less than 15% of the total organizational context they are a part of.

It has both individual and organizational impacts which can be as negative as one could imagine.

On the individual level a person in the role of a token may feel dehumanized, stereotyped, and depersonalized. 

For example, this person may begin to question his or her qualifications, talents or abilities, and negative outcomes may result, such as feelings of isolation, lowered morale, or depression.

A person in the role of a token may experience a  feeling of separation or marginalisation, that is, his or her ability to proceed is limited by invisible forces because they are illustrative rather than full contributor in the society.

Thus tokenism itself is limiting and can potentially inhibit a social environment from growing and competing in a diverse and global place. Thus, practices such as tokenism are intended to prevent alterations from occurring and to conserve the status quo.

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