Why We Can’t Wait

by

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Tokenism refers to any act that supposedly uplifts a minority group but, in reality, just amounts to a symbolic and largely meaningless gesture toward true equality.

Tokenism Quotes in Why We Can’t Wait

The Why We Can’t Wait quotes below are all either spoken by Tokenism or refer to Tokenism. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Why We Can’t Wait published in 2000.
Chapter 2 Quotes

A judge here and a judge there; an executive behind a polished desk in a carpeted office; a high government administrator with a toehold on a cabinet post; one student in a Mississippi university lofted there by an army; three Negro children admitted to the whole high-school system of a major city—all these were tokens used to obscure the persisting reality of segregation and discrimination.

Related Characters: Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. King) (speaker)
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

Those who argue in favor of tokenism point out that we must begin somewhere; that it is unwise to spurn any breakthrough, no matter how limited. This position has a certain validity, and the Negro freedom movement has more often than not attained broad victories which had small beginnings. There is a critical distinction, however, between a modest start and tokenism. The tokenism Negroes condemn is recognizable because it is an end in itself. Its purpose is not to begin a process, but instead to end the process of protest and pressure. It is a hypocritical gesture, not a constructive first step.

Related Characters: Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. King) (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tokenism Term Timeline in Why We Can’t Wait

The timeline below shows where the term Tokenism appears in Why We Can’t Wait. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Sword That Heals
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
...1950s and early 1960s, American society avoided striving for true racial equality by resorting to tokenism: the practice of making isolated, symbolic steps toward equality without addressing inequality on a broader... (full context)
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
In keeping with the country’s tokenism, some Black Americans managed to find success in the 1950s and early 1960s, but the... (full context)
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
Some people argue that tokenism is a good first step toward equality. Their reasoning is that it’s necessary for society... (full context)
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Unity, Community Organizing, and Leadership Theme Icon
...of challenging oppression in the courts. What should have been enormous victories have become small token steps toward equality. (full context)
Chapter 7: The Summer of Our Discontent
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
...revolution in 1963 also put new pressure on white moderates. Before the movement, they championed tokenism as a way of supposedly promoting racial equality. But the demonstrations in 1963 showed white... (full context)