Basic Tips To Avoid Tokenism

Tokenism occurs when a person includes a minority character for the simple sake of having a minority character. At best, it's a rather weak attempt to be inclusive; at worst it's a half-hearted attempt to quiet critics. Either way, it's something that's best avoided.

Include several minority characters.

One of the surest signs you've got tokenization going on is when you have a cast full of non-minorities except for one or two people representing minorities. If you have a cast with a bunch of white people with one black guy or a cast with a bunch of men and one woman, you probably have tokenization going on. As a bonus tip - when trying to figure out how many characters of non-white races to include and which ones, try looking up the ethnic demographics of the place the story is set in.

Make sure that minority characters have important roles in the overall story.

If your minority characters are limited to sidekicks, secondary characters, one-shot characters, and/or plot devices, you're doing it wrong. Make sure at least some of your minority characters play important and key roles in the story and do more than simply help a non-minority reach xir ultimate goals and/or glory. Let them play vital and key roles in the overall story. If applicable to the story you're writing, give them their own plot arcs.

Your minority character' identities and interests should not revolve around their minority-ness.

Their minority statuses should be a part of their identities, but their identities should not completely revolve around it. They should have plenty of hobbies, interests, life experiences, ambitions, and goals that any other person could share.

Pass your Bechdel Tests.

The original Bechdel Test runs as follows: does a film contain at least two female characters who talk to each other about something besides a man? Similarly, does your story contain at least two non-white characters who talk about something that isn't racial issues or a white person? If you can answer "yes" to these or any minority group represented in your story, then you're probably a fair step away from tokenism.

More Resources/See Also

Basic Tips To Get More Racial Diversity In Your Writing
Basic Tips To Write Subcultures & Minority Religions Better
A Few Things Writers Need To Know About Sexuality & Gender Expression
Fangs For The Fantasy (offsite)

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