A Case for Affinity Groups
By Anaya Rodgers '20
Fourth grade was my first year going to a school where the majority of the students looked different from me. Originally, I found this overwhelming because it seemed as if all the other girls, even if they did not know each other beforehand, became friends with each other much more easily than they did with me. It took some time to find people to befriend, but eventually I met my best friends, both white and completely different from me. Before I came to NCS, I thought it was nearly impossible that I could become so close with people I believed to be so different. Moreover, the people of color in my grade who I assumed would be so similar to me were not at all. I had to learn to separate my previous assumptions with the truths that became evident to me as I continued my journey at NCS.
After fifth grade, my two best friends both moved away, leaving me back at square one. Only this time, I had a new perspective. After trials with making and breaking friendships, I finally arrived to upper school where, unbeknownst to me, several friendships would become sisterhoods.
The first thing I remember hearing when I arrived at NCS was a description from my big sister about a club called the Black Student Union (BSU). So, as I got closer to upper school, the idea of joining that club became more enticing. At my first upper school BSU meeting, I saw new faces and learned about everyone’s experiences. Surprisingly enough, every young woman had something different to share about themselves. I assumed, because we were all black, that we would all have the same narrative. The reality was on the contrary. The more meetings I went to and the more I got to know each girl, the more I realized that the only major similarities between us was that we were black women at a predominantly white school trying to prove the negative stereotypes about us wrong. And that is when I had an epiphany: the point of affinity groups is not to share the same experiences, but to embrace our inner diversity though our race is the same. One of my peers once said to me, “if you can make a black student union, why can’t we make a white student union?” To this I would respond three things: the first is that the history and stories we hear are often examples of sisterhood from the perspectives of white feminists. The second is that stereotypes surrounding white people do not doubt their worth or their ability to be successful based on their race. Lastly, I would say that we often leave our sisters of color behind for fear of white tears.
Affinity groups are not meant to be exclusive, but to appreciate the beauty in being whoever you are. They are meant to prove that you can find lasting relationships with the many allies in a community, but also show that you can always rely on those who may share common struggles with you to console and advise you. To me, NCS’s Black Student Union is a place where I can acknowledge the challenges of being a black woman, which we can only understand and express while admiring the strength of our sisterhood.
To my 4th grade self, I would say to remember that you are more than a color; you are a woman who can live as she pleases with whom she pleases. Also, I would add to remember that this opportunity to question integrated friendships is a privilege that you did not always have. As Kwame Nkrumah one said, “those who would judge us merely by the heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depths from which we started”.
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