This year I had the opportunity to attend my alma mater's homecoming festivities (shout out to TSU). Homecoming for me is like a family reunion. From pep rally to the tailgate, you’re surrounded by people with a common bond. While catching up with my cousins, I realized that they and many of my fellow classmates no longer played a role in Corporate America. I listened as they told stories of their new ventures that allowed them to follow their passion and really do something great within the community

This courage came by celebrating their blackness. Their past roles were one in the same. They all resigned from plaing token black person in the office

I have said it before and I will say it again. It is hard being a woman in America, but it is even harder being a black woman in America. We are often overlooked, underpaid, and overused by companies we work for. Unfortunately, many of us also know all too well about tokenism. So what is tokenism? It's the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting a small number of people from the underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or sexual equality within a workforce. Most companies participate in these practices in order to prove they do not discriminate despite personal accounts by former employees proving the contrary

If you’re questioning whether you’re the corporate token, ask yourself these questions: Are you at a predominantly white organization/company? Are you the only person of color? Are you looked at as being the expert on all things black people? Are you seen as the “diversity” component of your organization? Are you the face of the organization/company when they want to engage in race based issues?

If your answer is "yes" to more than one of these questions, welcome to the token family.

tupac cousin gif
Photo: Rebloggy

Outside of the workplace we have to continuously mourn our brothers and sisters who are inhumanely and unjustly killed, then go to work only to argue that black lives do indeed matter. Why on earth must we work in an environment that further proliferates those issues and creates new ones? Working as a token has always felt like my skin was for sale. Although our paychecks do not reflect it, their diversity numbers do. I realized when I turned 30 that my soul nor my skin were for sale. I realized that the burden of being the token was just too much to bear. It’s like living out the present day happy slave narrative

In the agony of defending my blackness, I always heard an inner voice saying, "At least you have a job, what are you complaining for?". As I grew older and wiser, that voice grew to, "But at what cost?"

The cost of being a token is too much to pay, especially when we have to defend our blackness. The moment I began to see black employees defend the notion that we can better speak to the black experience than other cultures, I knew our souls had taken a final jab. If you want to speak on our behalf then by all means don't forget to take with you the burden of being harassed in white spaces and the target on our backs for merely being black

In talking to those not as courageous as my cousins, I realize that our souls and spirits are tired of asking permission to have diversity in our work spaces. Making a choice to take your price tag off isn’t an easy one. After all, Navient is calling and the rent is due.  Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his book Why We Can't Cait, "Quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait.”  Haven't we suffered enough in silence and waited patiently for a moment to advance? We have to make the decision to stop suffering in silence. At some point we have to stop asking permission to be more than a number to fill a quota. We have to stop asking permission to be more than the token black person that “clears” their name in a discrimination claim. We have to stop asking permission to not allow people to make us the voice for all black people. Black people are so dope that one voice couldn’t dare describe our struggle or our greatness.

Quitting isn't always the solution, however speaking up and pushing back on the uncomfortable microagressions we're often subjected to is a start. Suggest diversity training and before you get in the door, ask about the company culture in your job interview. In any circumstance, you're entitled to a safe work environment. If need be, make that trip to Human Resources. It's better to have a complaint on file. Do what you need to do. You earned your position and should rightfully flourish in it

We are in this fight to stop asking permission together, one step at a time

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