Q: What is an affinity group?
A: An affinity group is a gathering of people who share an identity such as gender, race, country of origin, language, family status, etc. Affinity groups provide opportunities for participants to reflect on that shared identity and their experiences within the context of a community. In a school setting with children who are associated with minoritized groups, affinity groups can provide a safe space where students can build connections and receive support and affirmation in a setting with other children who have similar experiences. Primarily, the goal of affinity groups is to facilitate positive identity development by helping children to advocate for themselves, as well as developing leadership and empowerment skills.
Q: Why are there affinity groups at GSL?
A: The main purpose of an affinity group is to promote inclusion. These groups provide a space for individuals, usually members of historically underrepresented or marginalized groups, to connect, share experiences, exchange resources, and identify successes and challenges that impact their ability to engage with others or with an organization.
Q: What happens in affinity groups?
A: Students share their personal reflections and experiences with the goal of empowering group members to be advocates for themselves and each other. Meetings are focused on experiential activities that help students to reflect on who they are, and how they come to understand, feel, and live out their racial group membership. The goal is to help students develop the skills of recognizing, communicating and negotiating situations they perceive as uncomfortable, whether here at GSL or out in their communities.
Q: Why isn’t there an affinity group for me?
A: GSL strives to provide multiple opportunities for students to engage with each other and contribute to the community. As we develop our affinity group program, we will continue to improve and respond to the needs of the community. The lack of a specific affinity group at this time does not necessarily mean that it will not exist in the future.
Q: I am a member of a so-called privileged group. Are there affinity groups for me?
A: Those who have privileged identities often find themselves in groups and gatherings where they are the majority. Additionally, they are affirmed on a daily basis in many ways: reflected in government leadership, in media, in school curriculum, and more. However, there are members of our community with identities that are rarely given that affirmation. Affinity groups offer a space where marginalized groups can experience welcome and affirmation. For many, this is a unique and rare space.
Q: Shouldn’t we focus on our similarities and not our differences?
A: At GSL, we value difference and believe it is a strength of our school community. By only focusing on similarities, especially in diverse environments, we devalue, ignore, and minimize difference, and diversity begins to be associated with something negative or taboo. Talking explicitly about difference, celebrating and embracing it, honors diversity. Being able to talk about difference helps us to improve the ways in which we engage with diversity and with people who are different from us. Affinity groups allow people who are often considered to be different or whose difference is not always portrayed in positive ways to receive support and validation from others who share in that identity.
Adapted from the “Affinity/Alliance Groups Frequently Asked Questions” by educator and consultant, Rosetta Ryong Lee and Lakeside School’s “Frequently Asked Questions: Affinity Groups.”