The Problem with Happy Black Tokens

Nothing irritates me more than a happy, Black Token. Tokens are Black people who have fully negotiated their Black identity and culture for success. Success is subjective so it varies from person to person.

We’ve had Tokens since the beginning of time and, unfortunately, they’ll be here at the end time. During slavery, Tokens were the Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomikas (I’ll all about that gender equality) that encouraged the slave owners to crack the whip on the Field Blacks. Today, Tokens are the ones that tell Black men to stop sagging and you’ll stop getting shot by the police, or Black women to stop dressing like a hoe and you’ll stop getting raped. Tokens are masters of respectability politics, making them legendary fools.

Tokens are a disgrace to the Black community because they are advocates of white supremacy. They tell their white friends, the only friends they have, that it’s okay to say “nigga” and most Black people are ignorant. I’m talking about full self-depreciation: Tokens don’t consider themselves Black at all. They believe that America is in the post-racial era and race no longer matters. Tokens believe that “All Lives Matter.”

I love Black diversity. I appreciate all forms of Blackness, from the quirky, nerdy types to the clean cut, suave types. Some prefer fantasy and comic books, while others prefer Ebony and Jet, or The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. We have basketball players and we have lacrosse players. Some Black people are diehard HBCU supporters, while others are diehard PWI advocates. Some Black people are liberal, while others are conservative. We have queer Black people and Black allies, and we have Black people who oppose such groups.  Black people are born and live in all parts of the world. Black culture runs the world and Blackness is highly desirable, particularly amongst whites, at the material level: They want to be like us without being us.

I think it’s important to make it clear that because you enjoy living in a place, like rural Maine, which is less than 2% Black, doesn’t mean that you’re a Token.

Confusion is at the root of Tokenism. Sometimes the Black community pushes Black people toward Tokenism with their disregard for individual Black identity. We often measure Blackness and sometimes tell Black people that they’re not Black enough, or they talk and act white. Embracing all forms of Blackness will minimize Tokenism, but it will never be full eradicated. We’ll always have that one Black person, at school or work, who refuses to acknowledge that you exist – fearing that white people will find out that they’re Black. Do what you can to show some love and if it doesn’t work, we can’t save everybody and you can’t say that you didn’t try.


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