Recently, we delivered a workshop “Navigating Resistance to/in White Affinity Groups: How to get white educators and students to do the work of dismantling white supremacy culture” as part of the 2022 Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in Schools Conference hosted by Truss Leadership.
Our workshop's goals included understanding the purpose and value of affinity groups in order to reflect on how white affinity groups connect to dismantling white supremacy culture, build solidarity, and support wellness.
We explored difficulties that arise when it comes to naming these groups as well as sites of resistance to white affinity groups that we’ve seen expressed by white people, resistance we believe is rooted in the traits of white supremacy culture:
Fear and power hoarding
Fear of conflict
The right to comfort
One right way
Sense of urgency
Worship of the Written Word
(Read more about white supremacy culture traits in Aparna’s blog “Wrapping My Head Around White Supremacy Culture”)
In our experience, we’ve found that resistance to white affinity groups is a common and significant challenge to making sure white people are also having critical conversations about race, racism, whiteness, white privilege, white supremacy, and systemic oppression.
We’ve heard and seen firsthand white people who are resistant to joining a white accountability group because they are unwilling and/or have significant discomfort in identifying as white, they fear creating a problem where they believe no problem exists, they are unwilling to believe racism is an ongoing problem, and/or they believe they have no connection with historical and (by extension) ongoing racism.
Yet, resistance to white affinity groups doesn’t only stem from white people.
We also discussed sites of resistance at an institutional level and those arising from people of the global majority. For organizations, risk aversion and institutional capacity to successfully facilitate white accountability groups can be significant challenges to this type of diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
For people of the global majority, we’ve, understandably, seen distrust concerning the purpose and value of white affinity groups and the ways that they seem to centre whiteness as a major site of resistance. When we encounter this response, there is a question that returns to us: if white people aren’t having these critical conversations in affinity spaces, where are they having them?
Two of the themes of this year’s conference were educator wellness and racial healing which are impacted when one routinely encounters resistance when doing social justice and equity work. This is true for people of all racial groups. However, for people of the global majority who believe in the value of white accountability groups as an important way to build solidarity, they too often find themselves expending limited energy advocating for these groups rather than this effort coming from white people.
It was great to be able to share our experience running affinity groups and training affinity group facilitators as part of this conference. Considering the conference was organized and hosted south of the border, it was uplifting to see several Canadian educators participate in our workshop.
Navigating resistance is much easier in community!