I first spotted her running on the beach – a blonde beacon among a bevy of brunette beauties.
Now, this wasn’t actually ON the beach, it was on the big screen. At the movies. In an advertisement produced by the Guam Visitors Bureau. It’s actually a pretty good ad. Well produced. You can see it here.
I didn’t think much of it – or her – at first. But as a regular movie-goer it dawned on me eventually: Oh, she’s a Token. As an advertiser, when your audience is largely Pacific Islander and/or Asian, naturally you’re going to reflect that with the people IN your ads. I get it. No big whoop. But in 2016, you’re also going to want to prove how “diverse” you are.
Still, as a recently transplanted white guy who’s still getting used to his “otherness,” she stood out. With all her pale blondeness, she could be my daughter, or niece, or the girl-next-door from my childhood.
She was familiar. So I bonded a little bit with Token Blonde Girl and began to look forward to seeing her.
Then I saw her again at the mall. This time in a red sequined dress promoting a raffle. (Above.)
Good for her! You go, Token Blonde Girl! Cash those modeling checks!
Then I saw her again in a big screen ad for one of the local phone carriers.
And again in an editorial spread for beach fashions on a local news site.
Now this was getting silly. Yeah, she’s pretty and all. But certainly she can’t be the ONLY pretty blonde girl on the island.
Or can she?
Just kidding, I’m not going down that road.
But this got me to wondering: What’s it like to be a token? And am I someone’s Token White Guy?
I pretty much go to the same supermarket, and the same movie theater, and I’m a regular at the post office. And everywhere I go I’m surrounded by Pacific Islanders and Asians. While I’m not exceptionally exceptional looking, I’m usually significantly taller than a lot of people there. So maybe I stand out.
And there is some political tension on the island of late. Several groups of indigenous peoples are fighting for self-determination. (Read about Guam’s political status.) So I try to keep a low profile and be friendly and polite.
It’s not difficult. I’m a pretty private person anyway.
And it’s not like I’m the ONLY white guy on the island. There are two big military bases here, so there are lots of us running around. And with a healthy mix of African-Americans and Hispanics thrown in, those groups are much more diverse than the general population. But not in the supermarket and post office, etc. The military has its own facilities on base and generally don’t mix in those everyday spaces.
Now trust me, I’m the last person to start whining about being the token anything. I know how good I have it.
But having an intellectual understanding of a phenomenon and the day-to-day living of it are different things entirely. Something I’m still working on.
So I’ll keep an eye out for Token Blonde Girl and wish her well. Maybe start a fan club. Or a modeling agency.