An important attribute of tokenism is that many who acquiesce to it have a sincere wish that the issue in question could be addressed at a deeper level. They recognize the token for what it is, but they reassure themselves with the thought that at least it’s a first step in the right direction – that it’s “better than nothing.”
I believe, on the contrary, that this very predisposition is what makes tokenism worse than nothing – a step backward from goals that are widely desired. The token itself might be harmless or even positive. What makes it insidious is its framing, or the larger context in which it is put forward.
The image of a waterfall, a heron, or a sunset may remind us that nature offers us a wealth of inimitable wonder. Painted onto the back of an SUV, however, it’s the cynical expression of a posture in which everything in the universe has been tamed, packaged, and brought under control.
The primary task of the token is to mine the intellectual obsessions of his or her sponsors.
Any writer, looking back over even so short a span of time as I am here forced to assess, finds that the things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other; he could be helped in a certain way only because he was hurt in a certain way; and his help is simply to be enabled to move from one conundrum to the next--one is tempted to say that he moves from one disaster to the next.