WHY JOIN AN AFFINITY GROUP?
Affinity groups can be a valuable component of social justice work by allowing for honest, challenging, and supportive conversations between people who share the goal of living and working in a world that is more equitable, inclusive, and just for all. The work of affinity groups is shaped by how the members of the group are affected by or benefit from systems of oppression that function within our society.
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable about the idea of discussions that bring together people with a shared identity while excluding others from the conversation. However, these conversations connect people with shared identities so that participants can work through the complexities of what it means to live with and work against discrimination from a unique perspective.
These conversations should only be one component of broader systemic initiatives designed to bring about social justice and can lead to more productive dialogue overall. Their intent is to support participants in doing the work of social justice in other areas of their life by offering a space to practice having difficult but necessary conversations and cultivating a deeper awareness of how each of us can make a difference based on our own lived experience of injustice and/or privilege.
For people who are already putting social justice principles into action in their personal and professional lives, connecting with a community of accomplices in an affinity group can be emotionally rejuvenating, present opportunities for growth, and reinvigorate one's commitment to action.
"When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female, or speak with a different accent or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul—and not just individual strength, but collective understanding—to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard."
~ Adrienne Rich, "Invisibility in Academe (1985)" from Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, 1979-1985
ABOUT RACE-BASED AFFINITY GROUPS
Why join an affinity group as a BIPOC educator?
Affinity groups are important for Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour because they provide the support and recognition needed for their members to successfully navigate working in white-dominant environments. In fact, affinity spaces for these educators can be places for healing, affirmation, support and encouragement. Given the racial trauma being enacted daily and the disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous and People of Colour educators, well-facilitated affinity groups have become a must.
Why join a white accountability group as a white educator?
Many white educational professionals are looking for ways to further their learning about how to be an anti-racist educator and have heard that they should not burden Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour (BIPOC) with their learning. Yet, they often don’t have a network of people with whom they can have deeper and meaningful conversations about the intersections between whiteness and racism in Canada.