Racial Affinity Groups offer a structure of inquiry and can address many needs. They support us in exploring what has been forbidden, forgotten, and unhealed. For example, in Racial Affinity Groups, white people can discover together their group identity. They can cultivate racial solidarity and compassion and support each other in sitting with the discomfort, confusion, and numbness that often accompany white racial awakening. They can also discern white privilege and its impact without the aid of or dependence on People of Color (POC). White people who have formed Racial Affinity Groups report that they recognized their collective commonality and shared history, as well as the impact that their privilege has had on other races and on each Racial Affinity Group member.
While many POC may not need an affinity group to help them relate to their racial group membership, they may need to explore the diversity that exists among POC and across POC without having the distraction of having to educate white people on whiteness and its harm. A habitual focus on white people can distract POC from knowing themselves as a diverse body. Exploring this tender territory in a Racial Affinity Group can be a wholesome alternative to expecting white people at large, who often are not aware of being racial beings, to relieve the intense distress experienced by POC.
In a Racial Affinity Group, whether for POC or for whites, we have the opportunity to share our experiences and histories, examine our impulses, reinterpret meaning, and see clearly our role in racial harming and healing. Such groups support us in being more vulnerable and in grieving the ignorance, shame, and disgrace that often accommodate racial inquiry.
A Racial Affinity Group brings us into clear intention and is a critical step in developing, from the inside out, racial intimacy, literacy, and skillfulness. To separate into same-race groups, in this sense, is not intended to divide us but rather to leverage the fact that, in relative reality, we are racially divided. In a Racial Affinity Group, we use separation to more deeply understand this conditioning.
Racial Affinity Groups are fundamental to transforming habits of harm and to healing racism. Regardless of how you identify racially, no one is exempt from the need to intimately examine racial conditioning.
Excerpted and adapted from Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out (King, 2018).