A Root of Inequality, Expired: Empires, Token Fixation, and Extinction

Roy Æ Hodges
Department of Sociology, Washington State University
WGSS-300: Intersections of Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality
Lindsey Carman Williams, PhD
June 5, 2023

In 2012, according to Schneider et al. (2012), 33.1% of nonheterosexually identified youths (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, other, or not sure) reported cyberbullying as compared to 14.5% of heterosexually identified youths (p. 173). Schneider’s article, though sampling students in the Boston metropolitan area in the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey (p. 172), reported nonheterosexually identified youths at 6.3% (p. 173). The individuals in this survey had evidenced that individuals in the nonheterosexually identified youth category had self-reported larger psychological distress/impairment (e.g., depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and suicide attempts; p. 176) and reported larger experiences with bullying victimization than heterosexually identified youths (p. 174). Against Schneider et al. cross-sectional study, LGBT identification had grown in the general population (Jones, 2021, 2022) after this study from 2013–2017.

Given the 85:15 ratio of an operational definition of tokenism (Kanter, 1977, p. 254) referenced in earlier discussion of tokenism with respect to women in workplaces and their experiences, these nonheterosexually identified youth meet the operational definition of a token and most likely experience similar token effects. At the time of Schneider’s study a 6.3% nonheterosexually identified youth would represent approximately a 94:6 ratio, even higher than the baseline for token operationalization. That Kanter offered predictability of discrimination in situations of tokenism (p. 254) and that experience dynamics of loneliness, and pressure to dissociate even from peers of their own status invites conjecture toward a hypothesis that online environments may be idealized “escapes” after school hours. That these individuals may experience cyberbullying in these environments, only would add greater stressors as an entire day of experience is experiencing tokenization and token effects.

Some of Kanter’s token effects are exaggerated polarization and distortions by others to fit stereotypes (p. 210–211), and exclusion by dominants who wish not to have the tokens around due to perceived mistrust with dominant secrets or perception of tokens who don’t play by dominant rules (pp. 226). Bullying behaviors experienced at greater probabilities in nonheterosexual identified youth may yet exhibit discrimination and psychological effects measured, analyzed, and predicted by token theory discussed earlier in the course. In this case tokenization in a sample of sexual identity where nonheterosexual includes uncertainty about sexual identity shares similarity of effects with women in workplaces in a study as far back as 1977. That this is the case brings forward the case that gender and race as interchangeable indicators in token theory allows other indicators to surface. This being the case, the question in sociological imagination begs the question, what a token represents covertly (e.g., negatively valanced motivational prototype) beyond the operational overt measure, which is outside the course’s aim, though in interdisciplinary fashion invites this discussion. Here in this domain lies what most likely is a better answer to calls for “doing justice”.

Furthermore, it is therefore more than applicable that token theory may yet be at play in matters of immigration, as stories conveyed by Southern Poverty Law Center’s (2009) report on Latino immigrants certainly has traces of similar behaviors (e.g., harassment and assault; p. 5). That the harassment is similar to bullying tactics (e.g., taunts, spitting, pelting with objects, housing being egged, racial epithets etc.) is not at all surprising, though in these cases more extreme violence can be found. Simple assault and serious violence (sans homicide) are greater and about the same, respectively, on school property and off (Agnew & Brezina, 2018, p. 280). As informed by statistics that evidence that youth centered around 18–24-years-old evidence the peak of violent crime (pp. 80–81), teenagers may be exhibiting token theory phenomena. For example, that it was teenagers that kicked, pinned, and lacerated Robert Zumba in 2008 (SPLC, 2009, p. 9) is of no surprise, though without this understanding surprise may be a natural response.

Furthermore, is an unequal enforcement protective against token nonheterosexuality and token immigrant (confounded with ethnicity/race in the population) demonstrative of an effort to protect dominant groups and their children against long term harms well known because of entry into the criminal justice system toward incarceration. It is without a doubt that there may be covert motivation toward overt apathy or criminalization on youth selectively as Chambliss’ (1973) classic study of the Saints’ and Roughnecks evidence. That politicians are even more removed from immigrant integration (i.e., segregation) due to social status and position, would place immigrants in even a greater tokenized effect.

In summary, it would therefore be proposed that tokenization is recursive where increasing levels of class built on exploitative arbitrage of tokenized Homo sapiens as dominated by dominant H. sapiens (such is the dominance of optimized communication in abbreviated speech and its potent effects in all matters of scientific application in regulating the behaviors of those perceived as tokens). It is most likely more effective to reduce jargon and refactor description of dominant-token dimension to function as bullying-retreating, as these represent Mertonian strain induction separating behaviors (i.e., bullying) from achieving cultural goals by increasing social resistance to institutional means, leading to strain adaptations (i.e., retreatism) in individuals doing the “work than nobody else wants to do”. That LGBTQ+ individuals also are suffering similar fates, or women, is not again, surprising, though to a lesser degree, yet still not as well off as their dominant heterosexual, and male peers, respectively.

It therefore seems most apt that to solve tokenization issues, there are two goals that may be offered to reach maximum equality. That is, to reduce tokenization ratios (i.e., integration) concomitant, increase protective effects against token effects (but not expect that these alone will eliminate token effects, as token effects are predicted through token ratios; i.e., resiliency, self-efficacy etc.), and directly neutralize the very process of psychological tokenization. It therefore calls for several lines of research to meet these goals. The first is to study tokenization in pursuit of mediation models to find independent variables suitable for control. The second is to experiment with programs ethically to produce and build a library of evidenced based programs reducing social token effects, but not build these such that a dominant program’s increasing market share (i.e., too big to fail) bullies new programs that threaten livelihoods of the dominant (i.e., echoes of Chambliss). Third, and finally, fund and support basic science to unravel not only the psychology of tokenization but map this tokenization psychology onto psychological development and find its gestalt relations along with correlation to Piagetian stages. It is possible that tokenization is a mere outcome of youth-adult development or more of a Kegan-like stage structure subject to situational demands.

There are limitations to this small investigation based in initial readings, but it is possible that some aspect of tokenization is evidenced where males and females self-select into like groups through Piagetian stages of development in advance of developing tokenization behaviors and subsequent effects. Perhaps if integration of groups had been not been aborted in earlier stages, tokenization would be less of an issue, however this may threaten dominant social structures and invite the same effects against academics seeking to solve these very issues as market structures and their dependent dominant individuals in a highly strained economarket structure are incentivized to maintain the status-quo.

So perhaps nothing, or something will come out of this analysis and recommendation. It would not be surprising if it remained in an undergraduate discussion post and most likely never see the light of day due to the current “filtering system” of academic structures possibly offering an insulative structure to a status-quo confounding the descriptive with science due to psychological realities of the elaboration likelihood model of communication (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) where emotional appeals are greater in utility for individuals increasing strained by expectancies of temporal compression (i.e., exponentially increasing productivity). The perfect is the enemy of the good—and that perfect is a dominant ideal, neurotic. Here is a root of inequality, social structures running out ahead, too big to fail, and now dependent on fixating stages of a species’ social development amidst the strains left from running out ahead and building structures around fixation in the first place. If only Freud would have discovered a stage of token fixation earlier, rather than later. Is it too late? The Holocene Extinction Event says… most likely. But then again, maybe the tokens adapt and survive, and that might be the whole point of massive inequality—enter [redacted]—the pinnacle of control.


Agnew, R., & Brezina, T. (2018). Juvenile delinquency: Causes and control. Oxford University Press.

Cacioppo, J.T., & Petty, R.E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 116-131.

Chambliss, W. J. (1973). The saints and the roughnecks. Society, 11, 24–31. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03181016Links to an external site.

Jones, J. M. (2021). LGBT identification rises to 5.6% in latest U.S. estimate. Galluphttps://news.gallup.com/poll/389792/lgbt-identification-ticks-up.aspxLinks to an external site..

Jones, J. M. (2022). LGBT identification in U.S. ticks up to 7.1%. Galluphttps://news.gallup.com/poll/329708/lgbt-identification-rises-latest-estimate.aspxLinks to an external site..

Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and women of the corporation. Basic Books.

Schneider, S. K., O’Donnell, L., Stueve, A., & Coulter, R. W. S. (2012). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 102(1), 171–177. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2011.300308Links to an external site.

Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC]. (2009). Climate of fear: Latino immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y.