Peter Wegner was alarmed by an invitation to a whites-only anti-racism session called a white affinity group. He went any way. It didn’t go well.
Recently, I’ve begun hearing calls for white affinity groups. The idea is to get a bunch of white people together — only white people — so that we feel “safe” discussing anti-racism. I find myself wondering: Do white people really need this kind of safety? Do we really lack it? Who — or what — do we need protection from?
A few years ago, my wife and I got emails inviting us to a meeting for “white parents of white children.” The email had come from our son’s progressive middle school. That was a problem. Also, I’m white, but my wife and son are both brown. So we’re not white parents of a white child. The invite had uninvited us.
We decided to go anyway. Here’s how that played out: Minutes into the meeting, my brown wife was accused of trying to “hijack” it. White parents talked over her. The white moderator asked her to “step outside” to air her concerns.
My comments were far less polite than my wife’s. I proposed a “Richard Spencer Test”: if your meeting sounds like something a white supremacist would love to attend, don’t have it. How was I treated? With deference. A couple of people called me “sir.” Others raised their hands and waited for me to call on them, as if I were the moderator.