Peter Wegner: On White Affinity

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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.


Attention fellow white people: the whole world is already safe for us. We don’t need a “safe space” to discuss racism ... just as men don’t need a safe space to discuss sexism ... just as straight people don’t need a safe space to discuss homophobia. If you want to be an anti-racist, don’t exclude the victims of racism from your discussion of racism. Why? Because when you do, you’re not the ally; you’re the enemy.

With a Perspective, I’m Peter Wegner.

Peter Wegner is an artist. He lives in the East Bay.