Tokenism & Limited People of Color in Hollywood

By Nayirah Muhammad


When I think about the number of shows on television and in film with a strong presence of people of color nowadays, I can only come up with a handful off the top of my head: Empire on Fox, Blackish and Fresh off the boat on ABC family, and Power on STARZ. Now, I’m sure there are more but these are the most popular ones. You may ask yourself why this is the case. Well, it speaks to the racial politics that are still very much going on in America. As many of us know, tokenism as far as entertainment and media is a way to add “inclusion” to the cast of a TV series or movie without actually giving that one of two characters of color any real attention that is given to Caucasian characters. These token characters are often misrepresented and seen on-screen very sparingly. But, when a show as critically acclaimed as Blackish comes around, a show with a majority African-American cast, the people of the African-American community hold on to it for dear life since there are so many limited options as far as entertainment goes with a strong POC casting. Tokenism is just a way for the higher ups to express their “desire to diversify” without actually doing anything significant to back up this claim. In media, television, and films the minorities of America (African-America, Asian, Hispanic, etc.) need to be more vocal about the lack of exceptional representation or tokenism is all we will see in film, media, and television.  


Nayirah is a guest writer for Voice Magazine. She is a member of the organization National Association of Black Journalists or NABJ.

“My name is Nayirah Muhammad, Aries, feminist, and double major in Journalism and English. My dream job is to become an editor at Harlequin teen publishing (a branch of Harper Collins) while running my own online video blog that covers both literary reviews and pop cultures news and topics. My likes (more loves) include reading, watch history documentaries, book buying/collecting, traveling, sparking constructive conversation about pop culture, real world issues, etc., and writing my supernatural fantasy novel. My favorite books series of all time are the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare and a Song of ice and fire by George RR Martin. On Wednesdays 9/8 c. you can catch me on Twitter @madambooklover live tweeting the hit drama series on the History Channel, Vikings! Follow me and contribute to my colorful commentary if you miss Game of Thrones and love drama, bloody battles, politics, and history as much as I do!”


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