Navigating Black History Month Without Performative Activism and Tokenisation

2nd October 2023

It’s crucial to acknowledge that promoting inclusivity and celebrating diversity should be a continuous effort, not just a once-a-year gesture.

Nevertheless, Black History Month presents a fantastic chance to shine a light on the black community’s incredible accomplishments, history, and culture. However, organisations often need help with performative activism and tokenism when trying to participate. 

Fortunately, we’re here to offer valuable insights and guidance to navigate these challenges thoughtfully through this blog post.

The Pitfalls of Performative Activism

Performative activism, in essence, is when organisations or individuals engage in superficial gestures to appear socially conscious without a genuine commitment to change.

This can manifest in various ways, including social media posts, limited-time marketing campaigns, or one-time diversity events during Black History Month. While these actions may seem well-intentioned, they can undermine the fundamental goals of promoting diversity and inclusion.

1. Lack of Authenticity: When companies engage in performative activism, it often comes across as disingenuous and opportunistic. People can sense when actions are merely for show, leading to a loss of trust and credibility.

2. Short-Term Focus: Performative actions tend to be short-lived. Once Black History Month ends, the attention on diversity and inclusion often fades, leaving issues or celebrations unaddressed for the rest of the year.

3. Failure to Address Systemic Issues: True change requires a deep commitment to addressing systemic organisational issues, such as hiring practices, workplace culture, and policies. 

Avoiding Performative Activism

To avoid falling into the trap of performative activism during Black History Month, consider the following strategies:

1. Year-Round Engagement: Make diversity and inclusion a year-round priority. Engage in ongoing initiatives, training, and conversations that promote diversity and equity.

2. Educate and Reflect: Encourage employees to educate themselves about the history and experiences of the Black community. Create opportunities for open dialogue and self-reflection on biases and privilege.

3. Meaningful Actions: Instead of superficial gestures, take concrete actions demonstrating your commitment to diversity. This could involve revising hiring practices, supporting Black-owned businesses, or investing in community initiatives.

4. Amplify Black Voices: Elevate the voices of Black community members. Encourage storytelling and sharing personal experiences to foster empathy and understanding.

Tokenisation: The Dangers

Tokenisation occurs when organisations use a single representative from a marginalised group to showcase diversity, often without giving them equal opportunities or meaningful influence. This practice can be harmful and counterproductive.

1. Undermines Authenticity: Tokenisation conveys that diversity is only skin deep and doesn’t reflect a genuine commitment to inclusion.

2. Alienates Individuals: Tokenised individuals may feel isolated and pressured to represent an entire group, which can be emotionally taxing and unfair.

3. Missed Opportunities: Organisations miss out on the wealth of talent, perspectives, and ideas from a genuinely diverse team when they tokenise instead of fostering an inclusive environment.

Preventing Tokenisation

To prevent tokenisation, organisations can take the following steps:

1. Diverse Representation: Ensure diverse representation at all levels of the organisation, from leadership positions to entry-level roles.

2. Equal Opportunities: Offer equal opportunities to all employees and talent you work with.

3. Inclusive Culture: Foster a culture where all voices are heard, valued, and respected.

4. Contact a Specialist: We specialise in multicultural marketing and can help your organisation navigate the complexities of diversity and inclusion. 


Black History Month provides an excellent opportunity for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion. However, these efforts should not be reserved for just one month out of the year.

To avoid performative activism and tokenisation, companies must prioritise inclusivity year-round, taking meaningful actions to create lasting change. By doing so, they can honour Black people and contribute to a more equitable and diverse society.

Need guidance on how to go about creating a more diverse marketing campaign or strategy? Have a chat with one of our team today by clicking here.

Our team of experts are dedicated to preventing tokenisation and promoting genuine diversity in your marketing efforts.

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