Feeling nervous to join an affinity group?
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
The first time I walked into a queer affinity space I thought I was going to throw up. I needed a literal shove in the back from a friend who was behind me to get through the door. I’m grateful for that push because that day I found joy, and community, and solidarity.
The first time I walked into a white accountability space I stalled at the door because I felt uncomfortable walking in under a sign that pronounced the space as for “WHITE” people even though my identity is white. If someone hadn’t been there to greet me at the threshold I might have turned around and left. I’m grateful for that greeter because that day I had conversations I hadn’t even realized I was longing for.
Walking into both of those spaces was uncomfortable. But I have learned that sometimes feeling discomfort is what I need. And discomfort doesn’t mean blame, shame, or guilt. Sometimes I feel those things too when I think about issues of inequality, but I remind myself that those feelings are not productive and are not the tools of social justice.
I recently participated in an affinity group that was entitled White Folks' Work: Awakening to Our Whiteness/Embodying Radical Responsibility facilitated by Nelly Marcoux and Maureen St. Clair. During the last session Nelly said something that has really stuck with me. She said “We can do this work with knees trembling, with hearts thumping, and with voices quaking." She is so right.
This work of understanding our own role in racist institutions and social systems isn’t easy, and sometimes it does bring up difficult emotions. However, we don’t need to be scared of those feelings. I have found that doing this work with others makes it easier. This work of reflecting on my own history, of naming racist systems, of thinking more deeply about how I show up and about my role in making our world more just - these things are all best done in community rather than by myself. I can read articles. I can listen to podcasts. I can watch workshops. But when I do those things by myself I feel overwhelmed and defeated because there is so much to know and understand and I often feel I can’t do enough.
Social justice work is collective work. After being part of an affinity/accountability group I feel hopeful because I can see that this is good and useful work that others care about too. By talking with other people and getting feedback rather than spinning in my own mind I can move beyond feeling hopeless. By talking through my reflections and conceptions I start to integrate new ideas rather than just learning about them. I feel that by having deep and meaningful conversations with a small group where I know I’m not being shamed or judged, that I don’t feel as overwhelmed by trying to understand the injustices I see in the world. Finally, by being accountable to others I feel reassured of the actions I need to take to dismantle racism in small ways close to home.
Talking Together for Change is hosting a free 1.5 hour affinity group for Indigenous and Global Majority (aka BIPOC) educators, and a 1.5 hour accountability group for white educators on May 15, 2021. We will be talking about current events. These are “come as you are” events. We don’t expect you to have read any particular articles in advance, or to know all the buzzwords, or to have fully formed opinions about the injustices you see/feel/experience in this world. You just need to come with an open heart and to be willing to enter into a conversation with others for an hour and a half.
We hope you join us even if your knees are trembling, your heart is thumping, and your voice is quaking.