Token Minority

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Token Minority is a character designed to get more minority groups into the plot. This serves several purposes:

  • Allows the producers of the show to broaden the appeal of the show by giving more viewers protagonists they can identify with.
  • Is useful for bringing in discussions of racial issues, gender issues or homophobia into the plot.
  • Helps the producers feel a little better about using a Scary Minority Suspect in every other case.
  • Allows the producers to make race jokes related to minority without any shame.
  • Allows the producers to avoid criticism from minority groups.
  • Fulfills the executives' desire for the show to be more ethnically respectful.
  • Depending on the setting, it can merely be an accurate representation of demographics in that region or industry.

In some casts of animal, alien, or monster characters, World of Funny Animals or not, there is a majority species and one or more minority species. Often the majority of the animal cast is made up of mammals and there is a token non-mammal. Usually, the token non-mammal is a bird, but reptiles, amphibians, and even invertebrates are certainly not unheard of.

Compare Captain Ethnic, Token Non-Human, Token Human, Token Minority Couple, Token White, Twofer Token Minority, Five-Token Band, Informed Judaism, Black Vikings, Black Best Friend, and The Smurfette Principle.

Examples of Token Minority include:

Humanity[edit | hide | hide all]

Advertising[edit | hide]

  • TV Ads in Australia are notorious for this (especially in "hip" young thing products like Coke), and usually include at least one minority for every white person they show. This shows up the most when they have African descent people, despite them being a very very small minority and only a very recent one at that. Usually mixed in as 1 Asian Woman, 1 African Woman, 1 White Girl, 2 White Guys and 1 Aboriginal or Middle Eastern Male.
    • Target ads are particularly well-known for this. There will always be one blonde white girl, one brunette white girl, one Asian girl and one black girl. Always.
  • University brochures also do this. You'll always see at least one black person and Asian person for every two white people. In brochures for traditionally black schools, there's a token white on every page. Further proof that Covers Always Lie.
    • A controversy erupted after it was revealed that a photograph used to adorn the front of a University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate application booklet for the 2001-02 school year was altered to add the image of a black student among a sea of white faces.


Anime[edit | hide]

  • Poor Hans, in The Daughter of Twenty Faces, is seemingly the only non-Japanese member of a group of burglars led by Gentleman Thief "Twenty-Faces" that is ostensibly a globe-trotting organization. He often uses Gratuitous German, to boot.
  • Macross/Robotech had Claudia Grant/Claudia LaSalle, apparently the only black woman on the entire ship. Southern Cross had Bowie Emerson, seemingly the only black man on the entire planet Glorie. In Robotech, he was re-written to be Claudia's nephew.
  • Zoids examples - in Fuzors, everyone is identifably white, save for Caio. In Chaotic Century and Guardian Force, eveyone is white save for Moonbay. In New Century, eveyone is white save for possibly Fuma.
  • One could make an argument for Rakshata and Viletta of Code Geass, as they're the only Non-White/Chinese/Japanese characters of any plot importance, and of the two, Rakshata is the one who gets played in a more positive light. Of the others, we have a supposedly elite pilot who dies mere seconds after she first appears on screen, and King. The less said about him, the better. And Nunnally fits in to the paraplegic category.
  • In the first season of Gundam00, Daryl Dodge has the honor of being the only black person at all. He's also killed off in episode 23.
    • Season 2 does introduce another black man as president of the Earth Sphere Federation, although that might be more to reflect the real world than tokenism. However, he has little impact on the plot.
    • Subverted somewhat with Setsuna F Seiei-whilst he does appear to fit this trope both within Celestial Being and in the wider Gundam metaverse in regards to protagonists, his middle eastern homeland forms a two episode story arc in the first season and plays a large role in his interactions with the princess of a neighbouring country. However, the middle eastern aspects of the story only serve to represent the region and 21st century problems to Japanese audiences, and beyond that, has no real importance to the story as the series progresses.
      • Plus, Setsuna doesn't look all that Middle Eastern, his character design is the same features as the other characters only with slightly darker skin, and he looks so different from all the Middle Eastern background characters seen in the show. The same goes for Marina Ismail, who has blue eyes- a rarity for anyone of Middle Eastern origin.
  • Beyblade. There are only 13 females in a cast of... what, fifty? More? A couple of mothers, one evil scientist and the blading girls are strictly rationed to one per team.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has this. The main cast is European, typically German or British. There are a few Ambiguously Brown people in there like Roy and Izumi (Asian), a few black people like Paninya and a librarian who served as an extra, the Ishvalans (Middle Eastern), and the Chinese-surrogates, the Xingese, Ling, Lan Fan, Fu, and May Chang. The 2003 anime version has Rose (who originally was white) and Noah.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Adam Brashear, the Blue Marvel who featured in the eponymous mini series of 2009, represents a rather awkward representation of this trope. He is for all intents and purposes (in the context of the story) a Black Superman from a time when the adjective was quite emphatically capitalized. And applied as a noun. It doesn't help that even without his powers, Brashear is a super-man - an athlete, military hero and scientific genius who gained ultra-super-powers when the experimental anti-matter reactor he was creating exploded. For about a year, he was the primary hero of the Marvel Universe (perhaps coincidentally around the same time the Sentry was supposedly very successful), but then it was discovered he was Black, which immediately led to outrage and uproar among both Black and White communities, until the President (JFK) gave the Blue Marvel the Congressional Medal of Honor and told him to quit being a superhero. Which he did until the present day. After his mini-series, he has made only cameo appearances.
  • Under the "women as minorities" category (which, in superhero comics, they definitely were until relatively recently and in many books still are) every superhero team used to have exactly one female member. The Avengers had The Wasp (later replaced by the Scarlet Witch), the Fantastic Four had the Invisible Girl (later Invisible Woman), the Justice League had Wonder Woman (or the Black Canary, depending on when you asked), the Teen Titans had Wonder Girl, the original X-Men had Marvel Girl, and the second team of X-Men had Storm (who was also, for quite a while, the only Black X-Man. She joined the team along with Sunfire, a Japanese man who left almost immediately, and Thunderbird, a Native American man who died almost immediately, making her also the only active non-Caucasian X-Man for a good while). All those teams except the FF tend to have more female members these days (though the JLA goes through periods of focusing on D.C.'s "Big 7" wherein Wonder Woman is the only female member) and some have gone through stretches where the women outnumbered the men.
  • The Justice League goes back in forth on this, with some eras (such as the Meltzer and McDuffie years) had very diverse casts, others like the James Robinson run were criticized for having no minority members whatsoever. During the New 52 relaunch, Cyborg was retconned into being the sole non-white founding member of the original team, presumably to make up for the extended periods of whiteness. It looks as though Element Woman is soon being added to the team to try and keep Cyborg from becoming the token minority of the current line-up.
  • Archie Comics:
    • In order to keep up with changing American trends, the comic added some ethnic characters in the 70's: African-Americans Coach Clayton, his son Chuck (who, like many Africans of the day, sported a righteous 'fro) and Chuck's girlfriend Nancy, as well as the Hispanic Frankie Valdez & his girlfriend Maria. As of 2010, the former three continue to appear quite regularly (and Chuck has naturally lost the 'fro). The latter two, not so much.
    • The company has recently announced that, in the spirit of political correctness (or something), they will be introducing their first ever gay character.
    • Recent Archie comics have also introduced some other minority characters, including Ginger Lopez (who works for a teen fashion magazine) and Raj Patel (an Indian student interested in film). Ginger shows up fairly regularly (moreso than Maria).
  • Debuting in 52, Batwoman managed to provoke a Broken Base even before this due to press releases touting her as DC's lesbian hero, who would be receiving DC's full support. Then DC promptly didn't do anything with her outside the series for over a year (and even in the series, she received little attention, as she was more supporting cast for her girlfriend, Renee Montoya). In all that time, she had very little storyline, so her characterization was mostly as a closeted lesbian and a Jew. When she did finally get her own series, she abandoned her Lipstick Lesbian lifestyle for tattoos and apparently coming out off-camera.
    • This seems to be the product of a retcon though, that established that Kate had tattoos and her alternative fashion sense YEARS before 52 took place. It also established that she had come out as a teenager, and that Renee was the closeted one in their relationship. So it seems the closeted lipstick lesbian phase more or less never happened in the current continuity.
  • The Falcon was this in-universe. He was added to the Avengers because Gyrich insisted that the team should have more black members; he didn't actually want to join.
    • Years later, Triathlon served the exact same role (again, in-universe) during Kurt Busiek's run. Later iterations of the team were thankfully more diverse.
    • According to Christopher Priest, Falcon's nickname in the Marvel offices throughout the 70s and early 80s was "Fal-coon". No, Priest wasn't alright with it, though being a lowly intern at the time, he didn't raise a big stink. In his blog, he refuses to name the co-workers who used it for fear of burning his bridges.
  • Empress was the sole minority member of the original Young Justice team, and was added relatively late into the run.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In the Gears of War Fanfic Necaberint's Phalanx, we have a very strong subversion of this trope. Gordon is very east asian looking, Priscilla is about as dark as they come, and Carmine is Hispanic. Noel is a white girl-girl and Irene is a big, pale white Yamato Nadeshiko with the Face of a Thug.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In terms of film, equally well parodied/referenced by the "Token Black Guy" in Not Another Teen Movie. Named Malik Token, the Genre Savvy token helpfully explains the joke to the audience by introducing himself as the person that stays out of conversations and says "Damn!", "Shit!", and "That is whack!" At a party later in the film, he sees another black guy, played by Sean Patrick Thomas, Token Minority from Cruel Intentions, and tells him that he was at the party first and the other man apologizes and leaves the party. Arguably, Malik's Crowning Moment of Awesome was when he got to say, "Damn, that shit is whack!"
  • Star Wars
    • After Episode IV became a blockbuster, numerous people noticed that an entire galaxy of humans were all white. (Which was not entirely true; it was just that the main characters were all white.) Episode V introduced Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, the Token Minority Black.
    • Samuel L. Jackson in the prequels may also be a example of this, as his character serves as little more than a background character until Revenge of the Sith (excluding his excellent use in the Clone Wars shorts).
    • One might argue that casting Temuera Morrison, who is a Maori, as Jango Fett and by retroactive consequence, his clone Boba Fett and every single clonetrooper reduces all other characters in the series (black, white or green) to token minorities by sheer weight of numbers.
  • While the 2006 historical film Flyboys was already heavily criticised for its historical inaccuracies relating to its World War I setting, one of the more amusing ones came from the film's fictional Token Minority, Eugene Skinner, a black boxer who joined the squadron to 'pay back' his adopted homeland. Mainly because the end of the movie showed a picture of the real-life squadron which was composed of exactly zero minorities. A rare moment where a film actually seems proud to reveal when it Did Not Do the Research. The Other Wiki's entry on the film points out that the film confuses the Lafayette Escadrille with the Lafayette Flying Corps with whom Eugene Bullard (the real person Skinner was based on) actually flew.
  • Harvey Weinstein loved using this trope for his productions back in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Starting with Scream 2, nearly all of his teen-aimed productions had at least one token black character (often played by a rapper) solely to bump up the box office. He seemed to stop this after Shall We Dance?, which had an Advertised Extra in the form of Ja Rule (who appeared in one concert scene and had no purpose to the plot).


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Invoked in a short story "Papanin's Mauser" by Michael Veller. It depicts a drift-ice research unit of four people. Three of them are Russians and Communists and the last one is a nonpartisan German. According to the Soviet laws three Communists is enough to constitute a Party cell, so every day they have to conduct a Party meeting, for members only. During these meetings the German has to leave the "meeting room", that is the tent where they all live and spend time tramping around it in the bone-chilling cold. Eventually he applies for membership in the Party to end this nightmare but is rejected on the following ground: as he is he symbolizes the international nature of the Soviet people and the unbreakable ties between partisans and nonpartisans.
  • Animorphs and Cassie
  • Lord Wulfston in The Savage Empire books by Jean Lorrah is the only black person we see in the first five books or so. On the other hand, nobody makes a big deal about it; he just has a hard time being anonymous.
  • Harry Potter's school Hogwarts has a few, including the very Irish Seamus Finnegan (although there may be others who are less obvious), the Indian Patil twins, the Chinese Cho Chang, and the black Dean Thomas and Blaise Zabini. To Mrs. Rowling's credit, no ado is made of any of these characters' ethnicities, nor are they ever described as such. In fact, Word of God has been needed to identify some of the black characters in the series.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Yoko Akia is the Token Asian, and Alexis Thorne is the Token Black of the Sisterhood or the Vigilantes. The other women are white. The two characters' nationalities definitely play a role in the series. Oddly, Alexis reveals in her thoughts that she knows that she was framed for crimes she did not commit because she was a poor black woman, but in the book starring her called Lethal Justice, that was not brought up at all!


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • 30 Rock
    • Lampshaded when, to call attention during a GE exclusive lunch, Jack calls out, "Gentlemen... token ladies."
    • The character Toofer is named for the Twofer Token Minority trope.
  • In a transparent attempt to say "we had a gay regular on the show," Law and Order had Serena Southerlyn come out as lesbian to the audience in the last minute of her final episode.
    • Worth noting that actress attended the same school of Mona Lisa Smile as listed above.
  • Averted in Grey's Anatomy, in which almost half the regular cast is non-Caucasian. The production team is, however, very aware and tellingly proud of the fact.
    • The GA staff used racial-blindcasting, when you start auditions without picking the ethnic background of the characters.
    • However as the show continued and a load of new cast members were added, the majority of them were white.
  • Subverted on The Red Green Show, with the character of Edgar K.B. Montrose, played by First Nations actor Graham Greene. Greene himself approached producer Steve Smith, asking to be on the show after enjoying it on TV. The role they gave him was essentially colour-blind - that of an explosives "enthusiast" who can't really call himself an expert, since experts have the proper license and permits, and more training in handling dynamite than just watching a lot of Road Runner cartoons. Edgar was Too Dumb to Live, but that also described everybody else on the show. The only reference to Greene's ethnicity in his time on the show was a humorous Shout-Out in his first appearance, when Edgar commented about the film Dances With Wolves, and stated that the "Native guy" (Greene himself), should have gotten the Oscar.
  • Similarly, the only non-white main character on Corner Gas is Davis Quinton, the Sergeant of Dog River's two-member police force. He (and the actor who plays him, Lorne Cardinal) is a member of the Cree Nation, hardly a rarity in Rural Saskatchewan. However, this is incidental to his character; it's only brought up once, at the end of the first season, when Karen suggests going to a ticket scalper and he acts offended. Also, both bartenders (Phil and Paul) appear Cree. One of them speaks some Cree, enough to know the original name of Dog River.
  • Referenced in Star Trek: Voyager (itself a very racially diverse show) where Janeway and Chakotay discuss the issues involved in a ship crewed by both Federation members and Maquis separatists. Janeway notes that by making the Maquis Chakotay her second in command she hopes she has already shown that she can be tolerant of them, and Chokatay responds "I have no intention of being your token Maquis."
    • Back in the original series, the creators had to fight Executive Meddling to get two Token Minorities, Sulu and Uhura, on the bridge, and some nonwhites among the extras. The original pilot pushed further with a female second in command, and Spock was considered to be radical at the time as an Alien, especially with the original plans being for Spock to be either Green or Red Skinned. Also notable that both lead characters of Spock and Kirk were played by Jews. Then there's the gutsy move of creating a Russian main character at the height of the Cold War.
    • Deep Space Nine, with a somewhat varied cast itself, has an odd class example. Miles O'Brien is heavily played up as a Closer to Earth blue-collar NCO in a staff of implicitly elite Officer and a Gentleman types, complete with a labour-movement martyr in his ancestry. (Granted, one can call Captain Sisko upwardly-mobile, as the son of a restaurateur, but this was revealed much later and never emphasised.)
  • In The Class Kyle's boyfriend Aaron is introduced as a secondary character to counteract the Monochrome Casting.
  • Averted in the original Battlestar Galactica Classic, especially in the episode "Fire In Space" which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Boomer and Tigh's extensive roles.
  • Pete Ross from Smallville is an especially funny example, as his comic book counterpart is white.
  • Both radio experts on Hogan's Heroes were token black characters. Which was awkward, as the armed forces were still segregated in WWII.
    • Given that they were all prisoners and obviously not all from the same unit, the segregation wasn't really an issue.
    • Sgt. Kinchloe (played by Ivan Dixon) was more than the radio expert - he was second-in-command. He also had at least three episodes showcasing him. And his role was prominent enough that the practice of cutting out the black characters for the "Southern Version" (practiced up to the late 1960's) wasn't usually possible. Sgt. Baker (played by Kenneth Washington) was a better fit for the Token Minority trope when he took Kinchloe's place, having previously been the one black guy in the mob of line-less background prisoners.
    • It is still notable that most of Kinchloe's spotlight episodes were the only ones to feature a black Girl of the Week (an African princess and an old high school girlfriend respectively).
  • Saturday Night Live has been guilty of this at multiple points in its run.
    • Garrett Morris in the 70s.
    • Eddie Murphy in the early 80s. While certainly nobody would question Murphy's right to be there, the fact remained that the show felt no obligation to have another black in the cast as long as Murphy was there. (In fact, Robert Townsend, who was originally hired to be the token black guy, was let go once Murphy showed up.)
    • In the early 90s, the show for a change had multiple blacks in the cast. However, when SNL turned over most of its cast in 1995, they kept Tim Meadows on primarily to avoid giving the impression that the show was trying to rid itself of all its black performers.
    • For the past few years it's been just Kenan Thompson.
    • This current season (Season 35?) introduces Jay Pharoah alongside Kenan. As a matter of fact, he's beginning to take some precedence over Kenan, especially to play the skinnier, more handsome African-American celebrities such as Denzel Washington. But it helps that his impressions are spot-on for nearly anyone. However there's also the non-black but non-white characters, like Nasim Pedrad, who is Iranian, or Fred Armisen who is part German, Japanese and Venezuelan. He is both the second Asian and second Hispanic cast member of SNL.
  • Benson from Soap (made in the 70s, mind) was the only black character in the show for the first three seasons and he was the butler. He was never used to put across any racial message and if anything he was the Only Sane Man in the entire show.
    • When Benson got replaced in season three, there was Saunders the Expy, also black.
    • In season three only there was Polly Dawson, a black woman who dates Danny who was there to try and push a racial message around. They do get some racial attacks and eventually Danny gets paranoid about everybody staring at the two of them in public.
  • Mad TV was guilty of this with Bobby Lee, the only Asian on the show. He even played a stereotypically Asian recurring character. To be fair, Bobby Lee's Asian characters were meant to make fun of the stereotypes, not Asians themselves.
  • Ricky and later Junito (Latino) of Noah's Arc, which has a predominantly African-American cast. In fact, they are the only non-African-Americans of the cast.
  • A sketch on Dead Ringers lampshaded this with the Schwarzenegger film Shooting Lots and Lots of Bad Guys with my Very Big Gun- Arnie shouts "Noooooo! Token Black Buddy!" after his sidekick is killed by Token British Bad Guy.
  • Dreama (black) in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Both subverted and played straight. Instead of bringing a token gay character onto the show, the writers had one of the three central characters turn out to be a lesbian. On the other hand, it wasn't until the seventh season that there was an important character who was black, and when he did show up he was the token black guy.
    • Season 3 had the Genre Savvy (and sadly under-used) villain Mr. Trick, a modern black vampire who commented on the fact that there were very few people of colour in Sunnydale.
  • The U.S. black music program Soul Train had some token white dancers in the audience.
  • The character of Charlie Young was added to The West Wing just because the NAACP was criticizing the show for not having a Token Minority. Charlie's "token minority" status is particularly interesting in this case, as the only two of the shows main characters are white and Protestant (and that is if one guesses on Sam, whose religion is not mentioned but can be presumed not to be Catholic or Jewish). Two of the main characters are Jewish, four are Catholic, making the show's main cast far more diverse than the actual US population, even without Charlie in the mix.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise, unlike the previous shows (which were such aversions of Humans Are White they were often accused of being Five Token Bands by some), has a black guy, a Asian woman, and everyone else is white. And also note that, in order to make it obvious to the audience he was only on the show so they could say they had a Token Minority, the black guy was a glorified extra...
  • Subverted on Sue Thomas F. B. Eye" where the main character is a deaf female FBI agent.
  • Scrubs had the great feature of JD and Turk's College Brochure. Turk is photoshopped in twice to make it appear more diverse. Lampshaded in the episode My Long Goodbye when Turk struggles to think of other black members of staff. He gets himself and Nurse Roberts (whom he is speaking to), Snoop Dog Attending, and Leonard the Security Guard...

Turk:This is a white-ass hospital.

He then adds that if this were a horror movie, he'd be getting nervous.
  • Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati, although the show made a strong effort to depict him as a well-rounded individual.
  • On House, Omar Epps was the only series regular of color for three seasons, until House hired three new underlings, at which point Kal Penn became the token South Asian guy. Having said that, Wilson, Cuddy and Taub are all Jewish to varying degrees of obviousness. And Thirteen is bisexual, and House is an atheist. And his atheism is portrayed... well, not negatively, at any rate. They do okay.
  • Robin Hood has David Harewood as a black Friar Tuck in 12th century England.
  • Van-Pires had Snap, who is really blatantly this (just look at that nickname!)
  • Arguably, Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries TV show. She has her own storyline for a bit, but it turns out to exist only to facilitate the (white, male) lead vampire's storyline. She was white in the books - but they completely erased the existence another extremely prominent female character who was Latina and definitely minimized Bonnie's personality and agency.
  • Joss Whedon's Firefly
  • Showtime's Dexter manages to avert this. In adapting from the book, the producers were given the liberty to change the ethnicity of any character based on the actors they wanted to hire. Instead, they hired a genuinely racially diverse cast and nobody got a Race Lift. However, the issue of tokenism is addressed; La Guerta got her position based on her ability to spin things to her advantage and her Twofer Token Minority status (black Hispanic woman), and when she pisses off her boss, he very carefully replaces her with a second Twofer Token Minority (a black, Haitian woman) who got her rank as an officer the hard way.

Captain Matthews: (referring to La Guerta's replacement) Turns out she's an actual hero.

  • Khaleel "Kenny" Al-Bahir is the Token Middle Eastern in The War at Home.
  • In Flashpoint, we have Lewis Young, Winnie the dispatcher and after Lewis's death Leah Kerns as the Token Minorities.
  • Spin City had Carter Heywood, a Twofer Token Minority who averted both Positive Discrimination and plain old discrimination by being a well-rounded character. Michael Boatman was the only regular black cast member; arguably this is justified in that, in-universe, the Mayoral staff's lack of diversity is mentioned explicitly (if only in the pilot episode) and Carter was hired cynically for his homosexuality, his race being a bonus.
  • Lost, despite having a huge cast from a diverse range of backgrounds, only ever had one gay character, Tom Friendly. And his sexuality wasn't even confirmed until after he'd been killed off.
  • Some Disney Channel shows include a rich, intelligent, yet conniving and selfish Latino as a token minority character. Some examples: That's So Raven, The Proud Family and Hannah Montana.
  • Earth 2 had a token black character who was a violent criminal whose "reform" consisted of a chip in his brain—when the chip malfunctioned, he tries to kill everybody.
  • Carrusel has a few. Cirilo is Black. David is Ashkenazi Jewish. Kokimoto is Japanese. Bibi is North American of English Ancestry.
  • Jim Carrey launched his career being the only white guy (most of the time) on the predominantly black In Living Color.
  • Modern Family has Sophia and her son Manny, who are the only racial minorities and who fit Hispanic stereotypes perfectly. They are also used as an excuse to use Hispanic jokes shamelessly.
  • Boy Meets World had two separate token blacks a different points: Eli Williams in season 3 and Angela in seasons 5-7. Angela lampshades this a few times: "Gosh I got to get some black friends."
  • The current Charlie's Angels revamp adds one in order to appeal to modern audiences.
  • Stockinger, the spinoff of the Austrian show Inspector Rex, has Antonella Simoni, a cheerful Italian-Austrian cop and the first female cop to appear in the Inspector Rex franchise.
  • A few Australian cop shows have had a single token Polynesian cop - Water Rats, Rush, and East West 101 are good examples, although East West 101 had a Muslim Arab-Australian cop as the main character, so in that case 'token' would be stretching it. Regardless, whether this represents a trend in the Real Life Aussie police force, or just actor availability, is unknown.
  • All 3 CSI series had one black character each. CSI had Warrick first and then Ray Langston, though with his departure, there aren't any. CSI: NY has Sheldon Hawkes. CSI: Miami had Alexx until she left.
  • There are quite a few black characters on Supernatural, but somehow none of them come even as close to being core cast as the women. In fact, the only one who managed to be seriously recurring was the psychotic Vampire Hunter who eventually became a vampire. His Scary Black Man traits were played with initially in that Dean thought he and his Badass attitude toward decapitation was awesome, and then the guy turned out to be a hateful extremist who'd offed his own little sister after she was vamped, which pushed Dean's Berserk Button, and who didn't make any distinction between Friendly Neighborhood Vampires and the dangerous kind.
      • The archangel Raphael, the one who never really does anything or gets much characterization, is the one linked to a bloodline of black people. He never even wears the same black person for more than a couple of appearances, because after he burns them out and dumps them they're in no condition to consent again. That poor family. Also, those poor actors. The guy who he wore in 'Free to be You and Me' was pretty impressively creepy.
      • There was a married black couple of hunters, one of whom was British, who were rude and overconfident. The husband died in their first appearance, and the wife was not very useful and never came back. First-season psychic character Missouri Mousley could have been useful on a number of occasions since when they've been desperate for allies, including on a couple of occasions specifically a psychic, but has never even been referenced, even when they went back to her town, although it was too late for help by that point.
      • In seasons two and three there were a few appearances by hard-assed Cowboy Cop Victor Hendriksen, the black FBI agent assigned to the Dean Winchester case. He had an Enemy Mine when the station in which he was holding the boys fell under demonic siege, and after they left he was killed. He reappeared as an angry ghost at the beginning of season four.
      • There's also Bobby's old partner Rufus Turner, gruff old bastard with a taste for fine scotch.
    • Minorities other than black generally don't even get token appearances, though there were some hot Asian Fan Service girls, at least one with a small speaking part.
    • This is a show about two white guys, with the addition of up to two other white guys, where a supermajority of women with speaking roles are blondes. Everything but white males appear only as token, although a couple of white women have gotten to the level of supporting cast before dying. (Or, in one recent case, being given Laser-Guided Amnesia so they wouldn't be traumatized by their kidnapping, or miss Dean after he left them for their own good.)
  • Played painfully straight in The Walking Dead with T-Dog, who is the only major character in the series not to have any sub-plots and little dialog. Extremely apparent in Season 2 episode "Judge, Jury, Executioner" in which the group deliberates whether or not to kill Randall, the episode focuses on the opinions of every member of the group except T-Dog whose one line of dialog is cut off by Dale.
  • Angel had Charles Gunn as the only black guy, though Doyle and Lorne might count as token demons.


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Balthasar, one of the three[1] Wise Men, has been depicted as black since Medieval times, possibly making him the original token black guy.
    • Melchior is sometimes depicted as Asian as well, so the Wise Men represent the three continents of the Medieval world: Europe, Asia, and Africa.
    • Turns out there might actually be some truth to this. One researcher has found references in an ancient manuscript saying that the Magi came from a country called Shir, which was in the far east, bordered an ocean, and produced silk. The Magi might have actually been Chinese.
    • Or, much more probably, Persia.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Even Peanuts wasn't immune. Franklin joined the cast in a nod to the court-ordered busing that was going on at the time. As Chris Rock points out, he was the only one in the cast without any distinct personality.
    • In one interview, Schulz admitted that he really didn't know what to do with Franklin, since he had no experience with black children. Ironically, the producers of one of the Peanuts animated specials found a role for Franklin here.


Print Media[edit | hide]

  • Mad magazine referenced the trope back in 1966 (issue 101). In a parody of the movie The Sandpiper, a character refers to himself as the film's "token Negro". It was a long time ago indeed.


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Currently the WWE Divas are sadly falling into this. Each brand has one (and in many cases, ONLY one) member of each minority group amidst the sea of blond hair on the rest of the roster.
  • As it stands, here are is the list of divas and their ethnicities:


Radio[edit | hide]

  • Lampshaded in the Firesign Theatre's "High School Madness" sketch, where Mexican-American students come out of nowhere just to ask the white protagonist for advice (then promptly disappear).


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Privateer Press' tabletop war game War Machine, Major Markus 'Siege' Brisbane is the game's only black warcaster.
    • Before the release of the expansion book Pirates of the Broken Coast, he was the only black model in the game.
    • And Siege came out in Apotheosis, the third expansion of the game.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • You know how long it took Pokémon to include a character with black skin? Or for that matter, a character of any non-Japanese, non-White descent? In any shape, form, or continuity? 12 years. And no, Jynx doesn't count. Yes, it's a Japanese-produced series set in (Before Black and White) thinly veiled copies of the relatively un-diverse Japan, but they have international characters and travel as the focus on the franchise. He's the boss of the main character in Pokémon Ranger 2, and a Boisterous Bruiser as well as Da Chief.
    • That is if you don't count the non jpn version of Pokemon Battle Revolution (and that came out only a few years earlier) where the player's avatar has a customizeable skin tone (again, added in international releases)
    • There was a young dark-skinned girl standing in the player's hometown in Firered/Leafgreen. But the sprite for this girl doesn't appear anywhere else in the entire game.
    • One could also count Pheobe, who showed up earlier. But only in the games: she was Demoted to Extra.
    • Brock consistently has light-skin and brown hair in the games, (Except Gen. I where his art showed RED hair.) but he's tanned in the cartoon. As for Phoebe, she seems more Pacific Islander/Hawaiian influenced, really.
    • In the fourth generation games, they did add another token minority, a Frontier Brain named Dahlia.
    • Gen V, being set in Not!New York instead of Not!Various parts of Japan, averts this. Minor NPC of varying skin tone are common, and 2 [2] Gym Leaders are black.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV had an ad for Weazel News, an Expy of the Fox News Channel, that parodied the use of token minorities on TV news programs. The voiceover for the ad explicitly mentioned the "diverse" news team as proof that they weren't racist, and when the Asian reporter was listed, an oriental gong sound was clearly audible.
  • Louis in Left 4 Dead is considered the game's token black guy. Veteran Bill is the token old guy, and Zoey is the token girl. Young white male biker Francis is the least mentally stable of the four, and some Fanon says he's gay.
  • In Team Fortress 2, several of the classes are represented as clearly being of a certain nationality. The Demoman represents Scotland, however he is also the only black man in the game. He is also a drunk and a "cyclops", making him a "Threefer."
    • The Team Fortress 2 team stated in their blog (providing some early concept art) that the Demoman was going to be a redheaded white guy, making him look more like the stereotypical Scot. Instead, they decided that he looked too much like Groundskeeper Willie, so they made him black. So this probably isn't a case of tokenism, but an attempt to break a stereotype. A better example might be the continuous hints of Pyro being the lone female class.
    • The 'aggressive black Scotsman' with an absurdly broad accent is a stereotype of its own in the UK.
      • Lampshaded in his intro video on the official site:

Demoman: I'm a black Scottish cyclops! They've got more f-[extended censorship bleep] than thy do the likes of me!

      • Ironically, it appears that in the world of Team Fortress 2, there is in fact a clan of black Scottish demolitions experts... but the Demoman is unusual in that he still has an eye.
  • In Prototype, Dr. Ragland is the only black character of plot significance. Particularly Egregious considering the game takes place in New York City.
  • Fire Emblem has Devdan, a rather simple halberdier that is ripe with some Unfortunate Implications. The next game does have Fiona, but she has about as much character as an old boot.
  • The Final Fantasy series has two examples. General Leo Christophe from Final Fantasy VI and Barret Wallace from Final Fantasy VII. The latter was played perfectly straight amongst the heroes. Paradoxically, it wasn't done for the feelings of the fans, or for racial diversit. General Leo, however, is a slight inversion because the sprite has the same skin tone as the rest of the characters, while his art has a notably darker skin tone.
  • In Romancing SaGa 3, Harid "El Nool" Tornado is the lone black character you can choose. He's a mercenary
  • Averted in the PC FPS Ethnic Cleansing, where almost all characters are of non-Caucasian race, save for the protagonist and few NPCs.
    • The reason for this, as the name implies, is quite nefarious.
  • Of the four player characters in the Konami arcade shoot-'em-up Sunset Riders, Cormano is the only Mexican. The other three are blond white cowboys.
  • Sig in Jak and Daxter is apparently the only black guy on the entire freakin' planet, including the NPCs that just wander around.
  • Bully each clique will have a girl, a black boy and a bisexual boy. The nerds clique have a Twofer Minority Black Bisexual Nerdy boy.
  • Mass Effect has an interesting take on this. While the crew of the Normandy consists mainly of humans with only one member of various other species present (one asari, one turian, etc.), those species are so common throughout the galaxy that most of your NPC interactions involve them. Tali'Zorah Nar Rayya, on the other hand, is the only quarian in the entire game, making her your token minority team member.
    • She's also a Space Gipsy, making her and anyone of her race a barely tolerated outcast everywhere outside their fleet.
  • Mass Effect 2 gives a double subversion, since Shepard's field mission squad consist of only three humans and seven aliens of different races, but when it comes to the human crew on Normandy SR-2, Jacob Taylor is the only black man on the whole ship.
    • Until you download the DLC and thus you have Token Minorities within token minorities. In the humans, you have an Australian(Miranda), a Canadian(Shepard, both sexes), an American(Jacob), a Brit(Zaeed), and a Japanese Genki Girl(Kasumi).
  • Anthony Higgs of Metroid: Other M; he's the first major black character; there were a few black people on the Valhalla (key word being "few"). He's also the only supporting character who survives to the end of the game.
  • In Night Trap, SCAT has both a token black guy and a token woman (if you don't count Kelly).
  • In Persona2:Innocent Sin, Lisa Silverman is the token white girl of a Japanese high school, much to her annoyance.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in Token Black (formerly named Token Williams), the only black kid in South Park, who is actually considered the token rich kid in-universe. Natch, since his parents own the Hooters Expy restaurant Raisins. Which is done as a deliberate subversion of this trope.
  • Superfriends was notorious for that kind of character, with a bunch of obviously non-white superheroes; Apache Chief (Native North America), Black Vulcan (Black), Samurai (Asian) and El Dorado (Latin American). The final season tried to address the black issue by replacing Black Vulcan with Cyborg of the Teen Titans, a character that Marv Wolfman and George Perez worked hard to create as a legitimate original character.
  • John Stewart, the black Green Lantern on Justice League. Less "token" because not only does he have the same nom de guerre as a major member of the original team, but he has worked with the League in a number of stories in the comics when he was Hal Jordan's backup, thus giving the character's inclusion some credibility. Furthermore, in the Unlimited phase of the series, the producers strove to dilute the issue by bringing in many of DC's other minority superheroes like Mr. Terrific, Vixen, Steel and Doctor Light.
    • It should be noted that, save for Batman and Superman, both of whom had a previous series unto themselves in the DCAU, John Stewart is the most featured character in the DCAU, having the most Limelight episodes on Justice League and getting a good amount of plot in Justice League Unlimited. Since his inclusion, other media featuring a member of the GL corp. have been criticized for not using a strong character like Stewart (who prior to this served as a secondary character in the comics) and he is generally the fan pick for the featured character in a potential Green Lantern movie. His original inclusion in the series was brought about more to avoid an Unpleasable Fanbase of Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan fans fighting. As Stewart had little fan base at the time and would be a nice compromise for GLC fans in general, he was given the role.
    • In addition, the second season of Unlimited featured the Ultimen, straight (and far better done) versions of many of the Superfriends token characters.
    • Shayera Hol (Hawkgirl), from the planet Thanagar, was deliberately given a Hispanic voice actor as well.
    • Out of the Original Seven, Batman is the only one without super powers. But who needs that when he's Batman?
  • Superman the Animated Series had Angela Chen, who was essentily a race-swapped version of Cat Grant from the comics, right down to being a catty gossip columnist and Lois Lane's rival at the Daily Planet.
  • Beware The Batman looks to be doing this by using a teen version of Katana as Batman's sidekick instead of Robin or Batgirl. Noticeable in that she was explicitly touted as "the new Robin" in press releases.
  • Clerks the Animated Series also added a token minority, Lando (named for the only person of color in the original Star Wars trilogy), who rarely did anything other than show up to showcase his non-whiteness. This was expressly parodying this trope, however.
  • The Extreme Ghostbusters team was compiled of all minorities. Roland a black man, Eduardo a Hispanic, Garrett a white guy in a wheel chair and Kylie a "Goth" chick. Egon was the only non-minority but he didn't always go out with the team, but held a figure head position. Their receptionist, Janine Melnitz is Ambiguously Jewish (considering her last name). The original animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, had the movie version of the team so there is only a token black guy instead of a whole token team.
  • Also parodied in Family Guy, in which the TV newscast's (a Show Within a Show) on-site reporter is consistently referred to by the anchors as "Asian Reporter Trisha Takanawa."
    • A similarly named Asian TV reporter in a recent episode of Lost was named Tricia Tanaka.
      • Both Asian Reporter Tricia Takanawa and Tricia Tanaka are based on real-life local Los Angeles TV reporter Tricia Toyota and/or Tricia Takasugi.
    • One episode also introduced us to "Hispanic Reporter Renee Jimenez." Interestingly, though, she's depicted as an otherwise baseline white woman who speaks with a slight Spanish accent. Talk about having your cake and eating it too....
    • And then there's Cleveland Brown, the token black guy who in the later seasons becomes a pormanteau for black stereotypes that had nothing to do with his established personality. And you can't bring up minorities on the newscast team without talking about "Blackuweather forecaster Ollie Williams."
      • "How's the weather looking today, Ollie?" "IT GON' RAIN." "Thanks Ollie."
    • Another episode, perhaps unintentionally, provided an explanation: most black residents of Quahog are disguised as whites to avoid police harassment.
      • Which was actually a double joke: it was a parody of The Wiz (a Wizard of Oz) musical as well as referencing the harassment.
      • One example when Cleveland is in the gold course the second time with a Richard Nixon mask.
  • Another parody in Futurama, where the characters sometimes watch the soap "All My Circuits", which features a cast of robots and a single token human.

Fry: What's he do?
Bender: Eh, the usual human stuff. He laughs, he learns, he loves.
Fry: Boring!

  • In Daria, Jodie Landon and Mack Mackenzie seem to be the only black students at Lawndale High, and they are apparently the only people (other than possibly Andrea) who Daria and Jane respect in that school. Jodie and Mack are painfully aware of their status and are uncomfortable being effectively examples of their race; for instance, Jodie complains how she has to be "Queen of the Negroes" at school. This includes when they were dubbed school parade King and Queen consecutively over multiple years, which they suspect is possibly in part because it disguise how little real diversity there is at the school. However, Jodie notices a little black girl looking awestruck at her being so honored, and decides she can put up with it for the greater good of inspiring other minority kids to dream. On the other hand, Jodie's parents are a pair of jerks, Tiffany of the Fashion Club is an Asian Airhead, and the school's principal, Angela Li (also Asian ethnicity) is a strutting self-important dictator.
  • Spyke in X-Men Evolution is not only the token black of the team, he's related to the only other black in the cast. Spyke was so unpopular that he was written out of the series and made to live in the sewer (no, really). His eventual guest-star role as a vigilante was more well-received by the show's fans than his entire run as a cast member.
  • Transformers Armada had token Hispanic Carlos. The fact that his catchphrase was "holy frijoles" should tell you how badly that turned out.
  • Mostly subverted in Transformers Animated, where the main character is of Indian heritage along with her father) and there are a number of nonwhite villains and background characters. However, it's notable that when the Autobots turn human, there's only one black Automan, Bumblebee. This is because of the voice actors--Bumblebee is the only main-cast Autobot with a black voice actor (Bumper Robinson), so he's the only one with a black human form.
  • The children's television series Dragon Tales has a dragon in a wheelchair. All the other dragons can fly, but apparently just having a dragon that couldn't fly wasn't enough; they had to get all Anvilicious and make it a Dragon in a wheelchair.
    • It's actually the other way around- making Lorca unable to walk necessitated that he can't fly either. Most of the plot of the episode where Lorca is introduced, "A New Friend", hinges on this.
  • John Thunder, the Native American member of the Centurions . Maybe one of the best out there.
  • The Holograms of Jem has three Token Minority: Aja Leith (Chinese Ethnicity), Shana Elmsford (African Ethnicity), & Raya "Carmen' Alsono (Mexican Ethnicity).
  • Lieutenant Green- token black of Captain Scarlet. The original also counted a Japanese and a black amongst its minor characters.
  • Orange Blossom and Ginger Snap of Strawberry Shortcake.
  • Doozy Bots, the attempt to adapt Gundam to American audiences in the early 90s (That thankfully never got past a short 5 minute preview video) featured the Black Kid of the gang who also happened to be in a wheelchair. To make matters worse (or funnier, depending on how you see it) when the main characters all transform into the eponymous super-deformed chibi Gundams/Mobile Suits, he gets stuck being the Guntank - which is the top half of a Mobile Suit attached to a set of tank treads.
  • In Teen Titans, Cyborg is the only African-American in the team. However, most of the team applies here also. Starfire is an alien. Raven is a demonic hybrid. Beast Boy was born in Africa, having genetically altered DNA. Robin is the only one who doesn't apply here.
  • Subverted on The Simpsons. There are loads of non-caucasian people in-universe but only Karl and Apu are focused on.
    • The episode "A Streetcar Named Marge": "Token black panelist, Drederick Tatum!"
    • The Simpsons has undergone quite a bit of Flanderization in this regard. In the early episodes, race was never much of an issue even when a character was visibly nonwhite. The show pushed the envelope in terms of content, but the jokes usually took aim at sex, rude behavior, juvenile delinquency, and working-class caricatures instead of political correctness per se. The writers were also more sparing with their political and topical humor in the earlier episodes, too - which is ironic, considering that both the show itself and its many imitators (South Park, etc.) now have contemporary sociopolitical humor as their bread and butter.
    • Waylon Smithers was originally black with blue hair, but the creators felt that him being a obsessive servant to a old rich white man with outdated ways of thinking had Unfortunate Implications.
      • According to David Silverman he was always intended as Mr. Burns' white sycophant but the show's color stylist Gyorgi Peluci mistakenly animated Smithers as an African American for his first appearance. The Unfortunate Implications were the reason why they chose to change him to the originally intended color instead of just going with it.
  • Subverted in Mucha Lucha, where the whole main trio is non-Caucasian. Rikochet is somewhat dark-skinned, and Buena Girl and Flea's skin looks sort of Indian. However, many secondary characters are white. The show is set in Mexico (or at least a Mexican-American community), where everyone is perceived to be "foreign" and "exotic" in some way.
  • Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb is Indian, the Fireside Girl Holly is African-American, Stacy and, by the looks of it, the Fireside Girl Ginger are Asian and Buford seems to have some kind of Dutch heritage. The show in general obviously tries to be very cosmopolitic.
    • Isabella Garcia-Shapiro is half Mexican and half Jewish. Though one episode has the cast visiting the "Mexican Jewish Cultural Festival" so Danville might just have a particularly large population of Mexican-Jews...
  • The Famous Five were reimagined for a Disney cartoon series, starring the children of the original Five. George's daughter Jo (Jyoti) is half-Indian. Compare the extremely white originals with the next generation.
  • Mostly averted in Challenge of the Go Bots, where A.J. and General Newcastle are both black, and Anya Turgonova is Russo-Chinese. Anya didn't show up as often after the Five Episode Pilot, but A.J. was a main character and Newcastle was the most important human supporting character.
  • Spoofed in the Robot Chicken sketch 12 Angry Little People, when the lone black juror points out that not every black person needs to be a positive role model.
  • The whole Weekenders group fits all. Though Tino's race isn't mentioned, Word of God states hes Italian American. Lor's Scottish American, Carvers African American and Tish is an Eastern European Jew.
  • Averted in Young Justice. As of the end of season one, three of the core cast members are people of color (Aqualad and Rocket are both black while Artemis is half-white and half-Vietnamese). It has also been confirmed that Blue Beetle (Mexican American) will be joining the team in season two.
  • Valerie from Josie and the Pussy Cats.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has Black Panther, an African king who's proven himself a very competent fighter and quite knowledgeable about science and magic. However, sometimes he goes whole episodes without saying anything. Some might argue that his stunts feel more badass when he doesn't talk.
  • The short-lived The Avengers: United They Stand had Falcon as the sole minority member of the team. Somewhat funny since in the comics, Falcon was added to the team to fill a diversity quota and quit when he decided he didn't want to be included simply for being black.
  • Apparently Kimono from My Little Pony G 3 is Japanese, as shown by her name and occasional kimono wearing.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Take any textbook made in the 1990s (or some made after 2000). Turn to a random page depicting a group of kids (especially teens). 90% chance that there is a Token Minority in the picture.
    • Not just pictures; math textbooks are particularly egregious when the word problems require you to solve a teenager's problem for him. There's a 75% chance that the randomly selected name will be an ethnic one, especially Hispanic.
    • But if you want something unusual, look at a textbook written in the 70s. Always one Token Minority, always black. Apparently Asians, First Nations, and Hispanic people didn't exist before 1990.
  • This will show up in college recruitment material, since a lot of colleges like to play up the diversity of their campus.
  • Invoked with the Burger King Kids Club Gang, who were specifically a stylized group of kids most kids could identify with somehow. The white kid is still the leader.
  • Take any stock photo image used for marketing software or business applications. A group of racially diverse, smiling corporate types in a meeting, watching a presentation or poring over a report. Infamously led to backlash when Microsoft's Polish division whitewashed the black man in the original American ad.

Token Non-Mammal Examples[edit | hide]

Animated Film[edit | hide]


Literature[edit | hide]


Toys[edit | hide]

  • The Fabuland toy line by LEGO only had one crocodile and three birds among an otherwise all-mammal cast.


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Token Minority Species Examples[edit | hide]

Animated Film[edit | hide]


Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Paperinik New Adventures, Angus is clearly meant to be a Funny Animal kiwi bird, the only one in Duckburg. He is not only explicitly said to be from New Zealand but also a Maori.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Pete and P.J. are this in Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie, and An Extremely Goofy Movie are token cats, despite being treated like Dogfaces in those worlds.
    • Also, Waffles and Chainsaw from Goof Troop are a token cat and dog in a world of Dogfaces.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, the majority of the population as well as the main six characters seem to be evenly distributed among unicorns, pegasi and earth ponies. However, there are several other intelligent species in the world. Cattle, sheep, donkeys, mules, buffalo, zebra and possibly goats are all people just as much as ponies, and the same goes for some mythological beings like minotaurs and griffons. However, these beings only have short gag cameos or one-shot appearances. The only exception is Zecora the Zebra.


Token Petting Zoo People Examples[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Beans the lizard and Angelique the fox from Rango


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Stuart Little is far more anthropomorphic than the other animals in all his book and movie appearances and in the TV series.
    • Note that in the original book he's human by heritage; his parents are his actual parents. He just happens to have been born with the approximate form of a mouse. How anyone worked out he was a viable life-form, let alone that he had the potential to grow up intelligent, when he was born so mutated and looking like a miscarriage is left to the imagination, because it is a children's book.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Rouge the Bat from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, as far as games are concerned.
  • Token Minority: The story of Temple Run seems to be taking place in Asia (judging from the architecture and rainforest), but all characters but one is western. The one non-western character is Asian. Her name? "Karma Lee".
    • Oh, and the western characters are either white or afro-american. The white characters are explorers and escape artists and similar stuff that fit the setting, while the black characters have concepts such as football star - making one wonder how he ended up in an ancient Asian temple in the first place.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  1. Who, by the way, are neither named nor numbered in the Bible: it is only a mediaeval tradition that there were three or that their names were as here plus Caspar.
  2. Iris's skin tone is Ambiguously Brown in the games and anime, though Sugimori's original art is definitely black