Affinity Groups: A Safe Space

Patrick Elliot

*This was written before the Assembly on Affinity Groups and is in no way a response to those events.

“Affinity groups” is a term that has been echoing off the walls in the Upper School for the past couple of years. Although they have existed in our school for quite some time, they’ve gained popularity lately. There is no doubt in my mind that every teacher in our school knows what an affinity group is. In fact, last year, heads of affinity groups, including me, were asked to speak on a panel in front of faculty to explain what the groups meant to us. ASA, BSU, LASO, and The Cause all had different reasons for what made their affinity group special to them. However, one word seemed to constantly come up: familiarity. Affinity groups are a place where people can talk about their issues with other people who may be experiencing something similar, or even identical, to them.

It’s hard for a lot of the student body to understand the point of an affinity group. Many times I have been in conversations with people who question my affiliation with Black Student Union. Some have asked, “What do you do in the black club? Why do you even need one? Do you hate white people?” Such questions don’t bother me at this point, because a lot of times people are just afraid of the unknown. White students don’t know what takes place within ASA, BSU, or LASO, but I can guarantee it’s not what some of them think. It’s a place of community. As amazing of a school as Latin is, sometimes you deal with issues that only people of similar backgrounds can understand and relate to.

At least a few times a year since I was a freshman I have heard other classmates question the lack of a “white student union.” They’ve argued that if there are groups for other races, why isn’t there one for the white kids. Whenever I hear these comments I laugh it off, but now I am going to address it:

Affinity groups help communities of underrepresented people feel like they aren’t just individuals. Being at a place where you do not see many people that look like you can be extremely discouraging. I know it was discouraging to me when I came here back in 6th grade (and honestly, it still is). Inside of these groups we talk about our family, our culture and anything else that we may have in common. It is not a place for us to just “trash white people.” Now let me be clear, if there is an issue that comes up about racism in or outside our school we will not hesitate to discuss it and figure out a solution. But, discussing other races is not our objective.

Wanting a place where you can feel as safe as a white person and communicate with those similar to you is an understandable request. However, don’t you see that you already have that safe haven? It exists in your neighborhoods; it exists in our school; it exists without anyone ever physically creating it into the world. It is society, and until you realize that the world you live in already favors you, and provides you with privilege then we, as a human race, will never unite as one people. In other words, your request for a white student union was answered a long time ago; it’s called the Latin School of Chicago, and more specifically, the United States of America.]]>