8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits

3. You only hire People Of Color for People Of Color “stuff.”
If you consistently pick Whites for coveted consultancies, expert projects or senior-staff positions except when the work specifically relates to diversity or race relations, that tells a story about your organization and the locus of power (#NonprofitSoWhite). How does this happen? No matter how progressive a White person you are, the sad truth is most White people don’t have POC friends. And when 70% of White people get jobs through inside connections and referrals from other Whites, you don’t have to be “against POC” to naturally lean on your personal trust networks to make hiring decisions. When done without awareness, those in power will only think to hire POC professionals when it’s about race and diversity.

4. You create and maintain an organizational culture that promotes White dominance.
Most People of color experience culture – theirown and the dominant White culuture – acutely, because we’re force to deal with/respond to/defend who we are, and why “we” collectively show up and act the way we do (one Asian American must speak for ALL Asian Americans, what one Black person does or says can be imbued on ALL Black people). In contrast, most White colleagues perceive themselves as culture-less, attributing culture and a prescribed set of behaviors only to POC. This leads to cluelessness that an organization’s culture may be set up to maintain the status quo (i.e., White) and block POC from rising in leadership.

5. You Convene Special “Diversity Councils” but don’t build People of Color leadership on your main Board.
I’ve been asked countless times to join a special leadership council, advisory group, convening, roundtable, task force etc., to help educate large-funder or quasi-funder institutions on POC issues. These projects, very sincerely pursued by their staff, are designed to help educate that institution on “what’s really going on” with the state of POC and help flesh out funded initiatives targeting POC groups. Aside from the fact these mostly non-POC institutions are engaging in “trickle-down community engagement,” the POC leaders they recruit are rarely tapped to serve as members of that institution’s Board of Directors or Trustees. 

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