Is Tokenism Back or Did it Never Leave?

Caren White
3 min readJun 27, 2020
Photo by Charles Fair on Unsplash

I have a friend who is an official of a nearby local town. She shared a post from the police department of her town bragging about the diversity of their officers. They were confident that their police force reflected their community. They gave a detailed breakdown of the ethnic backgrounds of their officers and compared them to the ethnic backgrounds of the community that they served, illustrating how they aligned.

One statistic immediately jumped out at me: the police officers in that town are 93% male and 7% female whereas the town’s population is 48% male and 52% female. How is a police force that is overwhelmingly male reflective of the community?

As I typed my comment on her post, pointing out the obvious gender discrimination, I was transported back to a memorable evening at a town council meeting in my own town. I try to keep up with the issues in my town, attending and speaking at council meetings. That particular meeting included a promotion ceremony for two police officers.

There were a lot of police, both local and from surrounding towns, in attendance to help mark and celebrate this important milestone in their fellow officers’ careers. All the seats were taken. It was standing room only. I remember looking around the room and being struck by the fact that it was a sea of white male faces. I saw only 1 black officer and 1 female officer.

I live in a very diverse town. We pride ourselves on our diversity. We also make sure that every group in town is represented on the town council so that everyone has a say in local government. That evening it occurred to me that the town council was more diverse than the police force.

And yes, when I got up to speak on my issue, I also questioned the lack of diversity in the police force. The answer I received was that one of the officers being promoted was Hispanic. Okay. But we have a large population of people from South Asia living in town. Why were there no Asian officers? And why was there only 1 female officer? The town manager, who happened to be the former police chief in town, cut me off and ended my speaking time.

The whole point of this diatribe is that apparently the gender discrimination that I saw on the police force in my town is not confined to my town. It is also…

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Caren White

Top Writer in Politics and Government. I always speak my mind. Follow me on Mastodon @carenawhite