Growing up, I remember hearing adults say, “I am not going to be anyone’s token.” I don’t hear it as much today as I did then. However, the other day Big and I were chatting, and he brought up the word tokenism. I looked puzzled and said, “is that a word?” So we did what any respectable, educated, power couple would do, and said, “hey google.”
What we found was the definition of tokenism. Which read as follows; Tokenism is the practice of making only a 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. I was shocked, and then thought about what that truly meant as a black, Christian, educator, who is a woman in America.
I thought am I a token? In my professional space, as an educator, am I seen as the one, the token? Let me start off by saying I am not a unicorn, there are more like me, and everything that I have, has been achieved through God’s favor over my life. This is the story for many women of color, who are educated, and work in white spaces. In these spaces, it is rare to see someone who looks like us in a leadership role, but we are here, and are working hard every day to let it be known that we belong. We are necessary, necessary to every little black girl walking through those school doors, who wants to be seen, who wants to succeed, who wants to be able to share her story of the black queen who she was able to see herself through for the first time.
Is tokenism real? Was our education system taking a chance on me because, they needed the numbers? I concluded, that tokenism is real, and it is alive and well. That systems are broken, and systemic racism is deeply embedded within them. But, I cannot control that, I can speak up for change in relation to social justice and equitable practices. I can control my commitment to education through my 15 years of services, with the goal to meet the needs of all students, to let them see themselves… through me, to help parents navigate the system, to advocate for students who have been treated unjustly, to mentor, to plant seeds and watch them grow, to be a light to other educators who are seeking solace.
We are hidden treasures, and we are necessary. Share with a king or queen, who serves in your organization, let them know you are there for them. You may be seen as one of very few, but you can support each other, by walking in unity, by being a support system, by eliminating barriers and lifting up others. A token, one of very few who can challenge the system to transform into a place that sees your excellence. Let me know what efforts you are going to take, to be a change agent in the comments below.