Illinois School Holds Blacks-Only Student Event For “Affinity Grouping”

150px-OPRFHighSchoolLogoNRouseThere is an interesting controversy at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park (outside of Chicago) where the school allowed students to hold a black-student only meeting. OPRF held a “Black Lives Matter” assembly on Feb. 27 but barred parents of white students who tried to participate. Principal Nathaniel Rouse (right), the assembly’s organizer, insisted he thought black students would speak more freely among members of their own race as what is known as affinity grouping. It might also be called racial segregation at a public school. What if white students wanted to engage in “affinity grouping” by excluding minority students?

The OPRF school board met to discuss the controversy and heard from dozens of parents, students and teachers who virtually all supported Rouse.

While I understand Rouse’s view that black students needed to discuss recent events among themselves, I disagree with the decision on both legal and pedagogical grounds. I believe it is far more important to have the whole community involved in speaking to such issues. Indeed, many of these parents appeared to want to come to express their solidarity and sympathy.

The controversy is reminiscent of the backlash against the Smith College president for being too inclusive in saying “all lives matter.”

SIsoyeSuperintendent Steven Isoye (left) also defended Rouse in saying that “It was clear to me that Mr. Rouse was trying to build a space that was safe space for our black students.”

OPRF English teacher Paul Noble was more forceful:

“Not everything is about us. Not everything needs to have our stamp of approval, much less our participation. Can we just check our white privilege for a minute? I don’t know why a white affinity group is necessary to make a black affinity group palatable.”

I fail to see why the question is one of “white privilege” rather than equal treatment. To call a demand for equal treatment as “privilege” is rather Orwellian. The privilege goes to the group allowed unique or exempt status in a given practice. If the school is saying that students are allowed to base affinity groups on race, I do not see why such groups would be only permitted for African American students. There is a reason why the law imposed color-blind tests that seek to establish neutrality and equality in the treatment of different racial, religious, and other groups.

While I reject the notion of “White privilege” as the reason for objections, there does remain the good-faith view of Rouse that this meeting was to allow a minority group to discuss contemporary issues among themselves. Although I disagree with the decision, I can see why Rouse believed that the highly emotional recent events warranted a special evening for just black students and parents to express shared feelings and viewpoints.

What do you think?

Source: Chicago Tribune

179 thoughts on “Illinois School Holds Blacks-Only Student Event For “Affinity Grouping””

  1. Max-1,

    That’s a great point… Science textbooks are always vulnerable too. Civic books tend to be at least quasi-propaganda.

  2. Here is a solution to the problem in that particular school. Have a competing Christian Mingle Dance set up at the same day, one half hour earlier on a parking lot nearby. Invite all people of all races and religions to show up. Have twenty paid hookers show up in loose attire to attract the males and a male jockstrap team to attract the females. The competition will beat the one race only seminar next door.

  3. Nick

    “This is a country of laws, not men.” This is a country of laws made by men, just as well as unjust laws. Men make and change the laws based on how well they serve the people. If the people were all of one sort, past, belief, then most laws would not change much. We have this absolute exhibiting itself in the Middle East.

    When the law is unjust those that suffer complain but those that don’t have to change the law as they are typically in the majority. Those in control must make the changes. Paradoxically Blacks are both the victims and yet have an upper hand concerning the debate(s) on the conditions that have surfaced in the past year or so, those conditions that go to make up a large number of these posts.

    As I stated, it may not be correct but perhaps it is appropriate for Blacks to perform as did Whites for so many hundred years, and as many do even today. Laws are the result of experiment and experiment is a part of evolution. If there is something to be gained, something that will move society towards a greater equilibrium then even if it doesn’t fit perfectly the theories so easily presented, is it not worth it? If this sort of congregation results in negative and or harmful actions or activities then the argument against it will be proven that way

  4. “To call a demand for equal treatment as “privilege” is rather Orwellian.”

    For black and brown and poor people, equal treatment has been a privilege throughout America’s history…

    Maybe our history Orwellian….

  5. Mr. Schulte,

    Would you consider Fred Hampton’s civil liberties violated??

    1. TJustice – would I consider Fred Hampton’s civil liberties violated how and by whom?

  6. I thought “separate but equal” was judged unconstitutional. Someone tell this man that outside of school they probably only socialize with black kids. That was the point! Now, as our President seems to want, we are going to separate again! People died to stop separation. This guy doesn’t know that? His plan is racist to the highest level!

    Now a white teacher organizes a meeting, including Latinos because they are now considered white, whether they like it or not. The first words we hear will be from the floor of the House. Every Democrat will rant and rave, holding their hands in the air (because they don’t believe Brown’s weren’t) along with a sign saying “Don’t Shoot” (because they don’t believe Brown didn’t say that). And white people will be vilified, even by white representatives (who just like ranting and raving).

    Then a cross will be burned on all white and Latino white lawns. Then the President will walk in front of a demonstration, with Bush by his side (but cutout of any pictures). The teacher will get an award, go on every talk show he can encouraging racism by blacks against whites and Latino whites, and become a regular on MSNBC.

    At least he won’t be teaching racism at school.

  7. JT wrote:
    “To call a demand for equal treatment as “privilege” is rather Orwellian.”
    = = =
    Which is odd seeing that JT regularly attracts people who happen to think equality means “special rights”. i.e. LGBT Rights… argued here by many as being “special rights”.

    Just pointing out the oddities of the internet.

  8. Felix,

    Never mind the work done by sociologists, criminologists and political scientists. White privilege didn’t come from a genie, it was enshrined in our constitution and upheld routinely for years. And comes now in the form of mass incarceration. Why ask for a poor working population, when the state will do it for you??

    As a white male, I don’t have any guilt about my privilege (the little I have), but that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge it. I live on land in Mississippi which was clearly taken by whites that were stronger and more aggressive than the tribes that lived here at the time.

    Also, it’s a rather basic elementary fact that man has always enjoyed living off others. In our country the top lives off the working-class, which is disproportionately black and brown persons.

    I don’t think there should be a white privilege class. Our civics classes should do a better job of being honest, then people would better understand this simple concept that has miserable consequences for most people (poor whites, too).

    Living white is not a form of racism, but it’s most decidedly true that individuals that maintain neutrality commit a type of intellectual suicide as related to social life and culture.

  9. @PaulCS

    Well, I may have that conversation over to Starbucks, BUT. . . I will be sure to get my coffee first sooo that there isn’t any strange, saliva-like substance added fee of charge because I am just sassy enough (and low class enough) to ask stuff like:

    Race together??? OK, sooo how come you black folks don’t get married and stuff??? Are white folks blocking your way to County Clerk where you get the licenses????

    Race together??? Uh, is there a black thug shortage or something because how come you black folks are sooo upset about a couple of scum bags like Trayvon and Mick Brown getting blasted away??? Wouldn’t you fell free to shoot a Klansman if he attacked you???


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  10. Kill the gay bill in California is oh, so ISIS like…
    ” that any person who willingly touches another
    person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to
    death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

    Who is Matthew Gregory McLaughlin?

    Matthew Gregory McLaughlin is an attorney who lives in Huntington Beach, California. He lists his phone number as 949-285-7902.

    He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California Irvine and his law degree from George Mason University School of Law in Virginia. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1998, according to

    The State Bar of California shows that McLaughlin is on active status with the bar. It also noted that he was listed as “inactive” in 2012. The bar did not list any disciplinary or administrative actions taken against him.

    McLaughlin has very little of an imprint via the Internet, and the last time he raised controversy was in 2004 when the Los Angeles Times wrote: Bible’s Lessons Inspired Initiative. McLaughlin told the newspaper that he wanted to amend the California Constitution to mandate the use of the Bible in literature classes in public schools. The Times also reported that he was doing this alone, not backed by any church or political organization.

    Media across California and the United States are trying to figure out whether McLaughlin is a lone wolf again, or is backed by some anti-gay groups. By any measure, it would appear that McLaughlin has become more radicalized in 2015 than in 2004 by advocating the death penalty for “sodomites.”

    California and the death penalty

    California has 748 people on Death Row, the most of any U.S. state.

    In 2006, a moratorium was placed on the death penalty and no executions have been carried out since then.

    In 2014, federal Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that California’s death penalty is unconstitutional. California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 21, 2014.

    – See more at:

  11. Good read.
    Background on the author first.

    John McWhorter

    Nominations: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction (2006)

    John Hamilton McWhorter V is an American linguist and political commentator. He is the author of a number of books on language and on race relations. His research specialties are how creole languages form and how language grammars change as the result of sociohistorical phenomena.

    Born: 1965 · Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Education: New York University · Rutgers University · Stanford University · Bard College at Simon’s Rock · Friends Select School

    McWhorter characterizes himself as “a cranky liberal Democrat”. In support of this description, he states that while he “disagree[s] sustainedly with many of the tenets of the Civil Rights orthodoxy,” he also “supports Barack Obama, reviles the War on Drugs, supports gay marriage, never voted for George Bush and writes of Black English as coherent speech”. McWhorter additionally notes that the conservative Manhattan Institute, for which he works, “has always been hospitable to Democrats”.[3] Regardless, McWhorter has criticized left-wing and activist educators in particular, such as Paulo Freire and Jonathan Kozol.[4] One author identifies McWhorter as a radical centrist thinker.[5]

    The Privilege of Checking White Privilege
    When students are compelled to have “White Privilege 101” classes, we have every right to ask: Why, and for whose benefit?

    If you’ve been white lately, you have likely been confronted with the idea that to be a good person, you must cultivate a guilt complex over the privileged status your race enjoys.

    It isn’t that you are doing, or even quite thinking, anything racist. Rather, your existential state of Living While White constitutes a form of racism in itself. Your understanding will serve as a tool … for something. But be careful about asking just what that something is, because that will mean you “just don’t get it.”

  12. Mr. Schulte,

    I don’t think Obama was a serious or principled intellectual, but by virtue of his position he was.

    If you question him being an intellectual, then you must question all the lecturers at University of Chicago Law. I think that’s a fair question to ask. But lets be consistent with Posner, Easterbrook and Wood, etc. who are all lecturers at University of Chicago.

    1. TJustice – I do not know either Easterbrook or Wood and I assume that you are speaking of Judge Posner.

  13. Pogo
    Your projection is on display. You’re defending a Party that preys on the emotions of the ignorant.

  14. Now,
    I’ll just sit back and watch the Pogo support group meet here to discuss why it’s never Republicans dividing America when they do it. I didn’t even get to count it down in 3…2..1 before someone lead that bandwagon.

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