'Tokenism' vs 'Diversity'
by James Taranto
This article is about how political parties use tokenism to make people feel a certain way. Taranto is specifically talking about Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina. There have been criticisms of the republican party for putting African Americans on the ballot just to give voters the impression that they are protecting "back interests," thus making they are tokenizing these politicians. Taranto argues that tokenism is merely one way of looking at diversity. Taranto says in his article, "'Tokenism' and 'diversity' are synonyms. Both refer to the practice of advancing individuals in a way that preferentially takes account of their race for symbolic reasons." He says that if you agree with the people doing it, you call it diversity and if you disagree then you call it tokenism.
This article shared a lot of the same concepts as the Dana Cloud article, "Hegemony or Concordance?: The Rhetoric of Tokenism in "Oprah" Winfrey's Rags-to-Riches Biography." Cloud talks about tokenism as giving attention to a small number of people from a minority group to give the appearance of equality. She argues that tokenism is unfair to underrepresented groups and that is misleading to spectators. Taranto takes a different stance on the issue. His article was kind of hard to follow. Taranto jumps from topic to topic without really explaining things so I may not have gotten all of his arguments 100% right.
From what I did understand, I thought the article brought up some interesting points. In order to be successful in politics, you need to have enough people to vote for you. Conservatives are trying to reach a group of people that typically doesn't vote in their favor. Granted, they could be changing their political view or how they vote on things that would benefit many minorities, which would be a more honest approach, but that's just not how politics works. Having a black senator (hopefully) makes people think that republicans are more sympathetic toward minority interests. It is especially note worthy that Tim Scott is from South Carolina, a southern state. I'm sure this is part of the reason why the issue has been getting attention.
I find it ironic that democrats are judging republicans for doing this when they, and the country as a whole used Obama as a token of equality. When we were discussing tokenism in class, somebody brought up the example of Obama after he was elected as president. We talked about how people think that racism and racial inequality is obsolete because we have an African American president, which just isn't the case.
I agree with Taranto that terms like diverse and tokenism could be one in the same. It all depends on the situation and context that it's used in. But it seems that Taranto doesn't see it as an issue. I think that tokenism is a way to avoid dealing with major issues head on. It ignores that racism still exists and gives people an excuse to keep living in the statuesque. People can claim that we are "diverse" and that we have "come so far" all they want, but the reality is we are using tokens to fool the world, and maybe even ourselves of a non-reality.