New York Creating Race-Based School ‘Affinity Groups’ To Combat Racism
On November 23 and 24, seventh and eighth graders at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School—a public middle school in the borough’s highly coveted District 2—are scheduled to begin their mornings by organizing themselves into racial identity “affinity groups.” This intentional act of segregation is being conducted in the name of undoing “the legacy of racism and oppression in this country.”
The New York Post reports that in an email to parents, Principal Shanna Douglas outlined five possible affinity groups the students could choose to join: Asians (who are 44 percent of the student population), whites (29 percent), a combined caucus of Hispanics and African Americans (15 percent and 8 percent, respectively), those identifying as multiracial, and people who wish to opt out of such classifications altogether.
“This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA and families,” New York City Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Nathaniel Styer told the Post. “[It is] abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two day celebration if they desire.”
“Celebration” seems an odd word choice to describe a racial sorting exercise for pre-pubescents. “How disgusting to divide 11 year old friends & classmates by race in 2021 NYC,” tweeted former District 2 Community Education Council member Maud Maron, a noted critic both of pandemic school closures and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. “Segregating kids is wrong. (Even if some expensive DEI consultant, who has run out of real racism to battle, tells you to do it.)”
New York City’s education system is no stranger to race-based affinity groups. In June 2020, the DOE’s Early Childhood Division held an “Anti-racist Community Meeting” at which 700 employees were given the option to join breakout sessions in one of the following groups: “blacks or African-American, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, multiracial or mixed, Native and Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander American, White Allies.”
That same month, the principal of a public elementary school in Queens instructed teachers that they needed to become “interrupters” of racism, then sorted staff into three groups: “Latino/a/x/Hispanic; White/Asian/Other; and Black.”
My daughter’s middle school has voluntary affinity groups for students and teachers alike, as does the district as a whole among staff. And as the whistleblowing Manhattan teacher Paul Rossi can tell you, private schools in this neck of the woods are not necessarily a respite from the racial-sorting hat.
How do advocates handle the cognitive dissonance of segregating in the name of anti-segregation? Like this, care of an email from a friend of mine’s private school principal:
“Affinity groups allow people with a shared identity to meet with one another in an emotionally safe and
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