On November 23 and 24, seventh and eighth graders at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School—a public middle school in the borough’s highly coveted District 2—are scheduled to begin their mornings by organizing themselves into racial identity “affinity groups.” In the name of eradicating “the legacy racism and oppression in our country,” this intentional act of segregation will be performed.
It New York PostReports that Principal Shanna Doug sent a list of five potential affinity groups to students in an email. They included Asians (44%), whites (39%), African Americans (8%), Hispanics (15%) and African Americans (8%) respectively. There are also people who identify themselves as multiracial or those who would like to opt out.
Nathaniel Styer from the New York City Department of Education said, “This program is optional and was designed in close cooperation with both the School Leadership Team (PTA) and families.” Post. “[It is]Both parents and students will be able to see that there is an option for them to opt out of the two-day celebration.
It seems odd to use the word “Celebration” for a prepubescent racial sorting exercise. “How disgusting to divide 11 year old friends & classmates by race in 2021 NYC,” tweetedMaud Maron was a former member of District 2 Community Education Council. She is a well-known critic of both pandemic school closings and diversity equity and inclusion (DEI). “Segregating kids is wrong. (Even though a DEI consultant who is out of touch with real racism will tell you not to, it’s still possible to accomplish this.
New York City is not unfamiliar with affinity groups based on race. The DOE’s Early Childhood Division hosted an “Antiracist Community Meeting”, where 700 workers were offered the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions with one of these groups: blacks, African-Americans, Latinx and Middle Eastern, North African, multiracial, mixed or Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or White Allies.
That same month, the principal of a public elementary school in Queens instructed teachers that they needed to become “interrupters” of racism, then sorted staff into three groups: “Latino/a/x/Hispanic; White/Asian/Other; and Black.”
The middle school where my daughter is a student has volunteered affinity groups. Teachers and students alike have them. District staff also offers these programs. Paul Rossi, a whistleblower Manhattan teacher can confirm that private schools aren’t always a relief from the racism-sorting.
How can advocacy handle cognitive dissonance when segregating is called anti-segregation. This is how I took care of an email sent by a private school principal to a friend.
“Affinity groups allow people with a shared identity to meet with one another in an emotionally safe and brave space. Unlike legal racial segregation which was a tool to maintain white power and control, racial affinity groups are anti-racist Spaces where participants can improve their abilities and capacities NotLearn and eliminate racism. (Emphasis in original.
Private school parents may choose to organise themselves on the basis of melatonin and nationality. If they do, it is up to me to decline. But forcing public school teachers—and, Lord help us, students—to affirmatively and publicly choose their own racial silo strikes me as awful, possibly illegal, and worth striking down in every instance I’ve heard about so far.
Although obvious, the first practical issue is one that affinity-promoters should be aware of: classification. What is the point of allowing African American/Hispanic to be classified in one category? Or are you white/Asian How do we deal with “white Hispanic”, the most mysterious category of immigrants? Naturalized immigrants don’t have more in common than fifth-generation natives with whom they may share skin color?
These definitional sorting questions point to a truism routinely treated by progressives and educational bureaucrats as false: Racial/ethnic/national identity is inherently fluid, not fixed. It would have shocked immigrant Greeks, Italians, or Jews to find out that they were white in the late 1800s and early 2000s. Yet that’s how we refer them today. Cubans aren’t Mexicans. In fact, the literal Caucasians from the Caucasus Mountains are often referred to as Asians. Hispanics have begun secession from their identities. Fluidity is a good feature of a country that was founded on ideas and not nationality.
Yet, we send the opposite message to some 11-year olds. They feel that they have to pick their own subcategory, regardless of whether it’s the opt-outs or a narrowly defined one.
The fact that this message is sent to and from exactly the same people as the one about gender and sexuality makes it all more odd. The middle school mathematics class was her first. My daughter asked students to list their favorite pronouns. They were soon informed it was National Coming Out Week. A 10-year-old girl is not at all aware of the multiverse choices they have, and it can be difficult to teach them about racial discriminism.
This is the part of the story when anti-anti–critical race theory commentators sneer about Nice White Parents who just don’t want their precious Kyles and Dylans to hear about the real and ugly history of U.S. racism. Here is the point where mockery and denial collide with reality.
Yes, affinity groups are often sold as ways to protect the weary ears of minority students, parents, and teachers—it can be “exploitative and emotionally taxing” for people of color “to educate privileged persons about their unearned privilege and the nature of marginalized person’s oppression,” P.S. 307 Principal Cecilia Jackson explained to her staff in June 2020—but even that quote demonstrates a deliberate attempt to put people classified as white on the defensive about their immutable characteristics.
“It doesn’t suffice to be ‘not racist. It’s complicit,” Matt Gonzales (an affinity group advocate who is a member of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group), told The New York PostLast year. “I believe the idea of white allyship means that we want white people actively to resist racism.”
Robin DiAngelo is a prominent anti-racist expert (including for public schools), and she explains this in her most recent book Nice white racism, “Many white people do not have the skills to engage in cross-racial work without causing further harm….I have been leading white affinity groups for years, and there is a consistent pattern that emerges as soon as it is announced that we will be separating by racial group for a brief period of time (typically sixty to ninety minutes): white people panic.”
I have no doubt Robin DiAngelo, Ibram.X. Kendi (whom my daughter is assigned to read), many leaders in New York Schools, Columbia University’s Teachers College, and most likely the whole campus of Columbia University think these formulations are just commonsensical observations when describing the fallen world and proposing ways to improve it. It is likely that such language will be deemed insulting, wrongheaded and even borderline insane by a large number of parents throughout New York.
It is not appropriate to tell eleven-year olds in their first period that they should join an ethnic tribe. These essentialist views should be avoided by teachers. If a public school system focuses on segregationist practices in the name to combat racism, it will soon discover that its customers are losing out for free products.