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Tokenism occurs when only a small percentage of a disadvantaged group is permitted membership in a specific setting, with those individuals referred to as tokens (e.g., a token female firefighter in an otherwise all-male department). Tokenism implies that there are external restrictions that prevent the entry of greater numbers of group members who would otherwise be qualified. Tokenism is also characterized by a specific constellation of negative psychological and emotional consequences for the tokens. Thus, although there may be situations in which a highstatus group has an insignificant presence (e.g., White students at a historically Black college), the term tokenism is usually reserved for situations in which the tokens are from a lower-status group.

From a systems perspective, tokenism is contrasted with a social system that ...

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