The Token Black Guy


Tristan Wilds, is an African American Actor who acts on the popular TV series 90210. He is the only main black character on the show and plays the role of the token black.

The school bell rings, the teacher calls out to his students to gather inside. The teacher looks out at his audience and notices that their is one face different from all the others. Out of the teachers 22 students one face is black. This is the token black guy.

In the above picture we have the cast of an American popular tv series 90210 . In the picture there is a total of 9 people. There are 4 blonde Causcasian females and 1 brown haired Caucasian. The 3 of the girls are young, beautiful and appear to live a well off or rich lifestyle.The other 2 females are older in age but also appear to be well off.  In the above picture there are four boys. Two appear to be your typical high school Caucasian male. While the other two  boys belong to minority groups. The thing that sticks out the most in this picture is the black guy.

He is placed in the middle of what appears to be a sea of white faces. The background in which the actors take the picture also makes the black guy stand out. The background is white and the black guys skin color contrasts and only helps bring more attention towards him. If those factors weren’t enough there is also a red circle around his face making him the centerpiece of this picture as well as a message at the bottom of the picture stating,” HERE I AM AGAIN!”.

After initially seeing this picture I would immediately consider him the “Token Black Guy” . The token black guy has become a routine role normally portrayed in American Television series. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, tokenism is defined as the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort ( as to desegregate).  A token’s role is to normally add some color to the screen or provide a hint of diversity. At the same time the token seems to slightly  suppress  the culture or customs he is supposed to exude. Instead he seems to gain personality traits that belong to the population that make up the majority.

In my own personal life I can say that I have felt like the “Token Black Guy” . In Paul Beatty’sThe White Boy Shuffle, he identifies with what my reality was,” I was the funny, cool black guy. In Santa Monica, like most predominantly white sanctuaries from urban blight, “cool black guy” is a versatile identifier used to distinguish the harmless black male from the Caucasian juvenile while maintaining politically correct semiotics.” (pg.27). Even though I went to a diverse high school, I always found myself being one of the only black males in my honors of AP classes. I was always intelligent but my white peers seemed to categorize me more as the funny, cool black guy. While I was also accepted by my African American peers, being the token black guy proved to be difficult at times.


Tristan Wilds as Dixon, the token black guy on 90210,, August 2008., 30, April 2013.

“Tokenism”, n.p.,  n.d. 30 April 2013

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