On Tuesday, April 17th, the Texas State University publication, The Texas University Star published a column describing her concern with an upcoming speaking event sponsored by the campus’ Turning Point USA chapter on Second Amendment rights. The column, entitled, “Token Black Women TPUSA’s Hypocrisy” was not a critique on policy, or the substance of the upcoming March 1st speech, but rather an irreverent take on the character of the chosen speaker, Antonia Okafor.
The columnist, Temi Ikudayisi, uses the Oxford definition of tokenism as the premise for her argument and cites that, because gun advocates don’t fight for the civil rights of black Americans and other marginalized groups, Okafor is fighting for a mostly white cause and is being exploited in a textbook example of tokenism.
To unpack the logical flaws within this column, we must start with the premise. The Oxford Dictionary defines tokenism as, “The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.”
The assertion that Okafor’s work on gun rights is backed with perfunctory, or minimal effort is an intellectually dishonest claim with no basis in fact. A quick glance at the speaker’s Linkedin profile will reveal that her activism on gun rights stems several years. She is the founder of Empowered, an organization that seeks to remove the stigma surrounding females carrying and using firearms. Okafor has also spoken about gun rights at the 2017 NRA-ILA forum and she was the Southwest Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCC) in 2015 and 2016.
It’s Okafor’s background and experience on the issue of campus carry that ultimately led to her invitation to speak at Texas State University. Texas State University TPUSA Chapter President Stormi Rodriguez explains, “We wanted to bring Ms. Okafor to campus because of her passionate position on the second amendment and campus carry. With the recent climate after the Parkland shooting, we wanted someone who could talk about the importance of the right to defend yourself. We know she is an incredibly engaging speaker with a unique story that students on campus would benefit from hearing.”
Tokenism is certainly a practice that occurs but is typically attributed to the hiring practices of a particular business or industry. Rosabeth Moss Kantler described token theory in her work, Men, and Women of the Corporation, in the piece, she described a token as a member of a, typically disenfranchised, group that makes up a small numeric margin (roughly 15%) of a business or industry.
Under the work of Kantler and even the Oxford definition, it would still be foolish to claim Okafor is a token. It would be foolish because she is not apart of the Turning Point USA workforce. Instead, she was invited to give a campus lecture by one of their chapters, because her work has and continues to promote the freedom of all to bear arms. Thus the smoking gun to claim Okafor’s role as a token cannot be found within employment or hiring practices.
So if employment doesn’t prove that Okafor is a token, then certainly her ideas do, right? The Student Government Director of Diversity Outreach at Texas State University, Eli Miller explains, “The Second Amendment and its avid supporters tends to fall short of the African American community.” This argument is also invalid because it is the gun control advocates, not the gun rights advocates that wish to discriminate against people of color.
Gun rights is an issue relevant to people of color, as evident by the 29% rise in support for conceal carry among African Americans and gun rights advocates are the first to educate the public on the racial roots within gun control. NRA Spokeswoman, Dana Loesch dedicated an entire chapter to racial discrimination in gun legislation in her book, Hands off my Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America.
Okafor addressed the insensitivity of the column and inclusivity of gun rights groups over social media. “Sad world we live in when another black woman reprimands another black woman for daring to believe that all black people should embrace their God-given right to defend themselves,” she said. “Yes, the second amendment is for all. If you don’t believe that then you are only hurting yourself.”
The column written by Temi Ikudayisi does not reveal the hypocrisy of Turning Point USA, nor does it prove Antonia Okafor to be a token black woman, it reveals her hypocrisy in prejudging a speaker and an organization without doing some basic research.