Going to a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), as a Black, Latinx or other person of color has its challenges. It’s tough finding that right space that feels accepting, comfortable and genuine. That’s why we have spaces such as the Dowdy Multicultural Center, our diverse and cultural organizations and events that cater to us.
But evolving and growing as students, we can’t just stay in those places. We explore, join other clubs and organizations that could be beneficial and help by networking. We join for the right reasons, but sometimes those spaces don’t want us for the right reasons. We stand out and bring something different to the organization we’re interested in — which isn’t a bad thing — by being unique. But to someone running that organization, they are just checking the diversity check box on their organization’s list of needs and values.
We should want more diversity in all of our organizations, but it shouldn’t just stop at recruiting a Black person or hiring someone who’s Latinx and feeling satisfied. That shouldn’t be the goal. How are you as an organization, company or club taking the steps to make people feel wanted regardless of the color of their skin or where they’re from? How are you going to take the steps toward being more inclusive, training your members on what that looks like and interacting with different culturally-based organizations? It goes beyond just hiring or recruiting someone, because what happens after? Are they just ignored until it’s time to show your organization is diverse? Are they just a token?
When you bring that person into your organization, please don’t make them a token or force them to take the spotlight and be the advocate for the group. Not all organizations do this, but tokenism is something that still happens today, and it diminishes a person of color’s true value and achievements.
If you’re wondering why your organization only attracts a certain type, think about your members, the organization as a whole and what is happening. Think about if people that are different from you feel invited. Also, if you feel you’ve never experienced tokenism or racism in an organization that is primarily one race different from yours, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening to others; don’t downplay anyone else’s experiences.
Najah Hendricks is a fourth-year Social Work major, Youth Empowerment & Urban Studies Minor. Nh871270@wcupa.