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To Ken White
The Cyclic Trope
side of the Token Minority
. Many casts have evolved from having one minority member for posterity to the point where the majority consists of minorities, but the white blonde-and-blue-eyed
portion of the audience will not be left out, either.
On a Sitcom
, they're often either the "uncool" one or the ditz
. This is probably because the others are viewed as less Acceptable Targets
, but when you really think about the implications
of the white member of a diverse group being lame, it starts to seem like a Broken Aesop
. On a Black Sitcom
they're often comic relief or a Cloud Cuckoolander
, though they can be academically smart.
A white member of a multi-ethnic team tends to stand out even more than the traditional Token and is more likely to be lampshaded
. When the Very Special Episode
about racism comes along, it won't be about them. If the episode is about learning about and respecting someone else's culture, they'll be the one who needs to learn it most, and it's never about their own culture.
In some cases the token white will be part of a non-racial minority group, such as being disabled, gay, or Jewish. Or a ginger. In this case, the token white's whiteness might still make them an Acceptable Target, but their own minority status will not, and might give the others something to learn about tolerance.
This trope is largely restricted to American media, although some other countries have their own local variants.
Contrast White Male Lead
, in which the sole white character is the lead
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Anime And Manga
- Pokémon's Tracey was designed to have an Anglo-Saxon look, making him the Token White of the Orange Islands arc. Cilan was also the token white of the group for the Unova saga, with Ash being Asian and Iris being Ambiguously Brown.
- Boogieman from the Milestone comic Blood Syndicate was a fairly odd variant. A closeted White kid (he's a were-rat) in a band of Black, Hispanic, and Asian (ex)Gang Bangers that were mutated (instead of killed outright like most in the area) by radiation-tainted tear-gas used to break up a big melee. He has some elements of Pretty Fly for a White Guy — unlike the rest of the team he comes from a stable, middle-class family, and he talks like he stepped out of a rap video.
- For a few issues of Justice League of America around 2009, the team consisted of Vixen, Firestorm (Jason Rusch), Green Lantern (John Stewart), Doctor Light (Kimiyo Hoshi), and Zatanna, thus making Zatanna the Token White.
- In Earth-23 of The DCU, Batman is this for the Justice League.
- Undercover Brother
- Lance (Neil Patrick Harris) as the token white staffer of "The Brotherhood", an African-American spy agency. Lampshaded thoroughly. ("What's a white boy doing here?" "What can I say. Affirmative Action.") Starts as a classic "uncool" version, but he gains respect when he reveals that he goes a little Axe Crazy when pushed. Crazy white boys.
- Later White She Devil joins as well, much to Conspiracy Brother's chagrin.
Conspiracy Brother: What the fuck? Chief! I've never seen this bitch in my agent classes! I'm still paying the loans off, man! I sleep on a pissy mattress! I ain't got good food to eat! I borrow money for my weed! I quit! That's it. Y'all ain't got Conspiracy Brother Jones to kick around no more! Give me a pillow case... I'm joining the Klan!
- Isaac in Barbershop. Also Pretty Fly for a White Guy.
- Lynn filled this role in Barbershop's Distaff Counterpart spinoff, Beauty Shop.
- In the 2010 version of The Karate Kid, Dre's only friend he finds in China is a blond boy.
- Posse: Little J (Stephen Baldwin) is the token white guy of the eponymous posse.
- In Coming to America: Eddie Murphy as "Saul" the old Jewish guy in the barbershop. Best line - when the king arrives draped in a lion skin - "What is that? Velvet?"
- Later on there's the restaurant worker Maurice.
- There is a bit of a weird variation on this in Tsotsi. The police officer is a token white guy, but this being a South African movie, he's also just a regular token minority. (Large minorities are still minorities.)
- Sandi (played by Jessica Stroup), Claude's secret wife in This Christmas.
- In The Book Of Life, Sasha is the only one of the Detention Kids to be Caucasian.
- Of the four central members of Mario Party TV, Steeler is the Token White-Holms, Mr. Doom, and Clel are black.
Live Action TV
- Lincoln Heights made sure to have at least a couple whites prominent in the story. Always as a sidekick or love interest to one of the main black characters. Lund as the sidekick to The Hero, Charles as the boyfriend to the chick and later Sage as a foil to Cassie.
- The Steve Harvey Show is notorious for this.
- As is Sister Sister. (Brittany Murphy was the first of them.)
- Nina Walsh from Smart Guy. Notably, the only white female in the series, and aside from one Very Special Episode which centered around her job (following black people around a mall to make sure they don't steal anything), her only role was to follow Yvette around. There was also a Butt Monkey white male named Mackey on the show. Usually, after being the butt of a joke, he'd comment "It's because I'm white, isn't it?"
- In The Wayans Bros., the character is actually named "White Mike."
- And Martin with Shawn and Buckwhite (parody of Buckwheat).
- Similarly, Greg Wulliger in Everybody Hates Chris. Though he's no more dorky than Chris himself.
- ALL whites are token in Everybody Hates Chris.
- Chelsea in Thats So Raven. In the spin-off Cory in the House, Newt plays pretty much exactly the same role.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did this occasionally with Will's goofy white classmates/friends, but even these eventually disappeared and were replaced with black Beavis And Butthead style sidekicks, only one of which had any staying power. For the first half or so of the series, there was also the hopelessly out-of-touch white teacher. Later, one of his aunts became involved with a white man... who eventually became so accepted by the family that he could make jokes about Carlton being white.
- Family Matters had this. Generally the only white guy on the cast was Carl's boss Lieutenant Lieu Murtaugh, and was shown to be, again, completely out of touch... with reality. There was also the occasional goofy white friend of the kids, who was often a "wannabe", trying desperately to assimilate into black culture, with everyone else practically straining their retinas rolling their eyes. And then there was the one episode with two cops who pulled Eddie over for being in a white neighborhood (though only one of them was actually racist, the other was just dragged along).
- There was also Mr Looney(pronounced Loon-ay) played by the late Tom Poston.
- In the first couple seasons Eddie had a shady white friend named Rodney. Rodney came down with a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
- Jim Carrey and Kelly Coffield were the token whites for In Living Color!. Carrey at least earned an audition for being Damon Wayans' friend rather than simply the need for a white castmember.
- A Different World took place at a predominantly Black college - to show it was "predominantly" black and not "all" black they had a token white girl the first season, played by Marisa Tomei.
- Desmond's was set in a barber's shop in London, and the cast was almost exclusively black, except for Tony, one of the hairdressers, who was white. In one episode, he referred to black people as "we" or "us", prompting someone else to say that he'd been hanging around the rest of them for too long.
- Chris Potter on Kenan & Kel, and later on Mark.
- AR Bernard, a blaxploitation-flavored religious talk show airing on Family Net, will occaisionally include a white guest.
- Sanford and Son has Officer "Hoppy" Hopkins, the only regularly recurring white character. He could best be described as being mildly retarded.
- Standup comedy shows with almost entirely black comics tend to have the one white, usually at the very end of the show. On BET's former comedy showcase Comicview, two white comics, White Chocolate and Gary Owens, were popular enough to host the show after their respective seasons (the most popular comics in a season get to host the next).
- Kim from The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
- Played with on ''Malcolm in the Middle'. While Stevie is the token black of the main kids, Hal winds up becoming the Token White of his friends, who are all black.
- Stevie from The Parkers. On this show she's also a Twofer Token Minority by also being the only slim woman.
- Alex in Tinsel.
- In The Vampire Diaries, witches and warlocks tend to be black, except for a warlock that works for Klaus named Maddox
- In the Sky 1 series Sinbad, the cast is made up of various ethnicities, including a pair of white women pretending to be Arabic/Asian. There is however, one Northern European bloke who is often referenced as the 'Northman' and fills this trope, without the Butt Monkey aspect.
- Keith and his mother are the token whites in Like Family.
- Turtle in All Of Us
- In Martial Law, Louise was the only white character out of the main cast in season 1.
- The Hughleys used the "black family in a largely ethnic neighborhood with one white neighbor" theme, but then made it interesting by having the white neighbor not be a butt monkey, easy target, or other form of comic relief. Rather, he was the friendly, supportive friend who would occasionally offer sage advice type of TV neighbor.
- A newspaper comic example is the character of Gunk from Curtis. Gunk is the only white member of the cast, period, and is the white equivalent of the "magical negro" character type, displaying utterly bizarre and nonsensical abilities due to being from the backwards Flyspeck Island. Gunk isn't just clueless and out-of-touch... he's the uber-ascendant Cloudcuckoolander given shape, voice, and wall-eyes.
Stand Up Comedy
- One of Dave Chappelle's jokes is that all groups of black friends should have at least one Token White in their group:
"The one thing I'm seeing, you'll be walking down the street and you'll see a group of black dudes walking, not just any old black dudes, we're talking, you know, "thugs". There'd be some thugs, and in the group, they got one or two, sometimes as many as three white guys will be with them, did ya ever see that shit? Well, let me tell you something about those white guys. Those white guys are the most dangerous motherfuckers in them groups. (applause) Well, it's true, it's true, man. Ain't no tellin' what they've done to get them black dude's respect. But, them black dudes have seen them do some wild shit, I'll tell you that. I been trying to tell brothers that. Every group of brothers should have at least one white guy in it. I'm serious, for safety. 'Cause when the shit goes down, and shit WILL go down, somebody's gonna need to talk to the police. (laughter) That's when that white friend comes in handy. "Uh-oh, Ernie, wanna get this one?" "
- Zoey from The Proud Family.
- Richie from Static Shock was Virgil Hawkins's sidekick, and the only white member of the principal cast. Although he's still a minority, too: the character he was based off from the comic was gay, and Dwayne McDuffie had stated animated Richie was gay, too. They couldn't actually show it on the show, though.
- Hotstreak, one of Static's most prominent enemies, is pretty much the only other recurring white character.
- The PBS Kids cartoon Maya And Miguel is so intent on being diverse that their token white friend only has one arm. He was born that way, probably to keep cynical older viewers from wondering if he had to cut it off himself to be included in the group.
- Invoked an episode in King of the Hill, where an all-Asian country club attempts to recruit Hank just to convince the PGA that they're not racist. Hank refuses to go along with it when he figures it out.
- Squid from Rocket Power. The Rockets were half-Hawaiian and Twister was Latino.
- In Young Justice, the Runaways are a Five-Token Band who only gain a white member, Arsenal, at the end of their second appearance. He's actually a Twofer Token Minority since he's also disabled. And Native American if we're going by comic canon.
- Chuck, among the male leads,note in Motorcity. Jacob would also count, but he's not as "on the field" as often as the rest. It's not as noticable, as some of the races are confirmed by Word of God (Mike is Ambiguously Brown with some Mixed Ancestry, Texas is Filipino, etc.).
- While Georgia Tech is heralded for having the first "All-Black" basketball team, what most people forget is that most teams were already predominantly black. They were simply the first to dump their Token White. To this day, white players make up a distinct minority in both college and the NBA. Especially the NBA, where 80% of the players are black. However, In recent years teams have begun drawing from Europe, causing an influx of white players. That said, Asians and Latinos are even less common than white guys.
- This is happening with the NFL too, though there's an upsurge of Pacific Islanders as well. During the 00's Joe Jurevicius and Wes Welker gained some notoriety as outstanding white wide receivers in the NFL. While the NFL's black majority isn't quite as severe as in the NBA (around 65%), black players dominate many key positions.
- Quarterbacks, kickers, and punters remain predominantly white, and are typically the specific token white on the field at any given time. Black QBs aren't uncommon in college football, but historically few have gone on to success in the NFL.
- At times national squads from African countries will have a sole white player. For instance, South Africa's squad in the 2010 FIFA World Cup included Matthew Booth, who admitted to "stick out like a sore thumb" while playing with 10 Blacks.
- Heather Morris, before she played Brittany on Glee, was the token white among Beyoncé's dancers (she can be seen in many live performances of "Single Ladies"). When Heather left to do Glee, Beyonce jokingly lamented that she was losing her white girl.
- Apparently you can rent white (or otherwise foreign) people in China to pretend to be a foreign employee of your company or an allied CEO. It's completely this trope that this practice exists; to prove that their companies are modern and global, Chinese businesses hire white people to be their token foreign dudes.
- While North Korea is one of the most restrictive and ethnically homogenous countries in the world, there is a handful of whites there, believe it or not.
- Sean "Diddy" Combs's label Bad Boy Records focuses primarily on Hip Hop and R&B acts, and as such, their roster is primarily black artists. This made the white pop quartet Dream stand out like this.
- In a touch of irony/Token Minority Couple, the remix to their second single "This is Me" featured Kain, the lone white rapper in the Bad Boy stable.
- Lil Wayne's Young Money label features mostly black artists like Drake (who is actually half-white), Nicki Minaj, and Mack Maine but also has Limp Bizkit and Paris Hilton
- Virtually every British jihadist or fundamentalist Muslim organisation will have at least one white convert in its ranks.
- Black street and prison gangs will occasionally accept white members especially if they operate in an area with a fairly large white population. Sometimes gangs can accrue so many whites that they will split off into all-white affiliate gangs.