In US law and popular culture, for decades open prejudice has been condemned. But not every type of racism is so readily visible. There is another kind of racism that many times goes unnoticed, and yet is as surely harmful. It is a silent form of bigotry called “tokenism,” a concept that does not have an exact Spanish translation.
Tokenism is the practice of being inclusive only superficially. Tokenism considers members of minorities in decisions, work spaces, and opportunities, but only in a very low proportion. The few included individuals are the tokens, and serve only to meet others’ expectations of diversity and equal rights.
Tokenism is harmful to the tokens and to the community they belong to, because when a person or organization gives the appearance of social justice without practicing it, an opportunity to pursue equality is lost.
It may be hard to realize when one is being used as a token. Perhaps you recognize yourself in some of these examples.
Organizations that have the responsibility of serving every community—including yours—but do not really seek to understand the groups they are helping practice tokenism. People who hold authority in these organizations and do not consider getting involved with your community or understanding your concerns thoroughly might be using you as a token.
You might be a token when you are considered for an opportunity of any kind only because of your ethnic origin, the color of your skin, or your mother tongue. Organizations that practice tokenism often do not have a program that fosters diversity. They fill positions only to appear diverse. In such an organization, minorities often occupy jobs with few opportunities for growth, and cannot even dream of attaining a leadership position.
You are considered a token when someone involves you in a situation with cultural implications, but neither listens to you, nor recognizes your cultural differences.
You are a token when politicians or businesspeople reach out to you only during elections or when your community is involved in an upcoming decision that can affect them.
People who do not belong to your community, but who seek a leading role in events, decisions or responsibilities of your community are very likely to be using you as a token. Such people might even be getting a personal benefit from the situation.
This silent racism is not new. It has been hurting America’s social fabric for generations. Tokenism has been denounced by civil rights activists, but it survives in large part because the tokens gain from it. However, it does not really build a better future for minorities. So think twice before engaging in projects that use you as a token.
PROUD TO BE LATINO
The Peruvian community in Anchorage has held the celebration of Our Lord of Miracles for more than 20 years.
Anchorage’s Mexican community has celebrated the Day of the Dead for each of the last 13 years.
Since 1988, Anchorage’s Hispanic catholic community has celebrated the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12, at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish.
According to statistics gathered by Child Trends Hispanic Institute, 9% of Alaskan children are of Hispanic descent.
2.5% of undergraduate students and 2.5% of professors at Alaska Pacific University are Latino or have Hispanic ancestry.
At University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 5.2% of undergraduate students and 2.9% of professors are of Hispanic origin.
According to figures from the Center for American Progress, 9.3% of the Hispanic population in Alaska is below the poverty level. Only the Caucasian population has a lower percentage.
Couched by Mexican American Daniel Esparza Jr. and John Jessen, the Bartlett Bears high school football team won the Alaska State Championship last October. trenados por Daniel Esparza Jr. y John Jessen, ganaron el Alaska State Championship el pasado mes de octubre.