Students’ Thoughts on Racial Affinity Groups

By Melania Diah (Reporter ‘23)

Usually, between 10:00-10:45, club leaders facilitate meetings for activities around campus. However, Tuesdays are different. On Tuesdays, students with common identities occasionally engage in teacher-led discussions in what are called "affinity groups." The goal of affinity groups is to foster a sense of belonging in students of all identities. Is this goal being achieved, though? Are Friends’ Central students satisfied with how these discussions are going? Do we even need these talks? Some students had their say on the matter.

Berlinda Beauvais (‘23) was initially eager to participate in affinity groups this year: “Honestly, I feel like the need for these kinds of activities at other schools is often dismissed. Especially, following movements such as BLM and Stop Asian Hate, race-related conversations are essential.” Many students agree with the necessity of affinity groups, but are they being done effectively? Berlinda remarked, “I really enjoy it when we have interactive activities to get more engagement from students who don’t normally talk. I think that these discussions can make some people uncomfortable, making room for the same voices to be heard. You can kinda see where the problem starts to develop.” Last year, on the first day of school, students watched a video about the issue of having one perspective. The video suggested activities such as polling students on their opinion and advocated for any way that would get more students to step out of their comfort zone and speak more.

It is not uncommon for students to find it challenging to open up during these discussions. Hope Lane (‘23) understands where they are coming from: “I think it’s hard to talk about race in settings like these because there are a lot of unfamiliar people in the room. It’s easy to have an open talk with friends, but [affinity groups] are a more public place.” This explains why certain students are more open to freely sharing in affinity groups, while others are not. Though some students don’t vocalize their opinions in groups, Hope has seen a change around campus with the way students have approached race: “I would say that after affinity groups, I'll see an uptick in people being curious about the topic that was discussed during the meeting. That’s what they are supposed to do: get students to be more exposed to race and explore more on their own. I would say it's a success.” She ultimately hopes that, as we have more affinity groups sessions, they will have more profound impacts on students.

Affinity groups are a constructive way for students to be spending their time. The meetings are achieving what they were designed to, which indicates that FCS is headed in a positive direction. More students are engaging in conversations about race than ever before. However, a common theme is that the meetings can be optimized for additional students to get more out of them and, in turn, ideally put more into them. Hopefully, these suggestions will help students see a productive change in the experience affinity groups offer.