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. Inga:

    Wasn’t the real Squeeky Fromm that skanky Manson sex groupie who tried to kill Gerry Ford? Defined by whom you admire?

  2. Not patriots, Paul, I referred to our own resident racist, patriot. You know, anti-Semite, anti-minority, patriot. Try and keep up could ya?

    1. mespo – I thought patriot was going out with Inga. BTW, you are started downhill again.

  3. Squeeky is still mad about her granny slapping her hand for taking that fourteenth cookie.

  4. “For those of us who are more Zen-like, and living in the here and now, most of the racism we see is by blacks against whites.”


    Squeeky needs a date with patriot. They could compare sheets and see whose is the whitest.

    1. mespo – the fact that you think patriots have sheets says way too much about you.

  5. @Ken Rogers

    Well, from your post it is obvious that you are still living back in 1949, when you were a little white kid who was traumatized by separate drinking fountains. Out of the commentors around here, that makes you one of the ones living furthest in the past! Inga, for example, is still reliving the 1960’s, when her parents made her go to church. Anyway, for your excursion on the way Back Machine, there should be a prize! Kudos!

    For those of us who are more Zen-like, and living in the here and now, most of the racism we see is by blacks against whites. The blacks nowadays are such a bunch of little special snowflakes that we aren’t even supposed to shoot them if they are attacking us. Imagine if we went around saying, “White Lives Matter”!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  6. @TJustice und Herr Schulte

    “TJustice – ‘white-privilege’ is only discussed by ‘pseudo-intellectuals.’ ”

    I suppose Herr Schulte was trying to say, “White privilege is discussed only by pseudo-intellectuals”, but let his pompously sloppy expression pass.

    If white privilege is a null concept, then its deniers need to refute its conceptual legitimacy, rather than airily dismissing it out of hand in a blatantly pseudo- if not anti-intellectual, authoritarian way.

    Immediately below is one summary of white privilege theory, but I want to first relate a minor, but very personal experience of white privilege when I was about 10 years old.

    I was born and raised in the Midwest and attended public, integrated schools where I counted one boy of color as my best friend in the 5th grade.

    In the summer of 1949, my younger brother and I were in Florida, spending the summer with our maternal grandparents, and I went into a supermarket to use the restroom, where I was shocked to see separate restrooms and drinking fountains labeled “White” and “Colored.”

    Although I didn’t have the phrase in my vocabulary at the time, the unabashed racism pissed me off, not just because of my relationship with my classmate, but because of its inherent stupidity, evident even to me, a 10-year old boy.

    I made it a point to walk up to the Colored water fountain and take a long, slow drink from it, observed by several customers and two employees. I was actually hoping one of them would say something to me, because I was psyched to give them an ear full.

    But instead of remonstrating with me for not participating in their collective racist stupidity, they all just looked away, as if to say, “Well, if a white boy wants to drink out of the Colored fountain for some dumb reason (maybe he cain’t read), then I guess it’s OK.” I came to understand only much later what would have assuredly happened if I had been a 10-year old *colored* boy, whether he could read or not, and had drunk from the White Man’s fountain. As a white boy, however, I was privileged, and escaped the consequences that would have been visited on my best friend had he had the temerity to drink from the fountain of the “Superior Other.”

    Differences in Theoretical Focus and Approach
    Whiteness theories do not agree on a single methodology or theoretical claim. Like African American Studies or Feminist Theory, Whiteness Theory is interdisciplinary. It seems to me helpful to divide whiteness theories into four major groups.

    Material theories of whiteness [white privilege] ask how whites as a group come to enjoy privileged access to tangible goods — everyday goods such as well-paying jobs, health protection, environmentally safe neighborhoods, legal and police and fire protection, access to good education, and basic civil liberties (such as freedom from being arrested for DWB [Driving While Black], the right to vote in Florida, or the ability to walk in a store and not be kept under surveillance due to one’s color). Primarily structural in approach, material theories address not only economic, but also bodily concerns. (In this respect, they resemble feminist material theories more than they do strictly class-based material theories.) Although they do not ignore individual prejudice, material theories are more concerned with systemic racism — the kind of racism that is revealed in patterns and systems — rather than in personal motives. (CRT and LatCrit often overlap with this type of whiteness theory, as do many analyses grounded in African American and other black and brown epistemologies. See, for example, the work of Carter G. Woodson.)

    Discursive theories of whiteness analyze the ways in which language, mass media, discourses, and symbols organize meaning so that whiteness is framed as both the preferred and the normal state of being. Discursive theories often identify binaries that treat blackness or brownness as the foil (or dramatic “other”) for whiteness, allowing whiteness to emerge as special and rare. They also point to the meta-narratives implicit in our mainstream discussions of race. (Just as “boy meets girl” is a staple narrative of movies, the idea that the history of racism in the U.S. is a history of “progress” is a staple of discussions of race in documentaries and news stories). The focus of discursive theories is on the way that taken-for-granted perception is organized and shaped by manipulations of symbols and binaries (e.g., white=light=good vs. black=dark=evil).

    The dichotomies involved in much of the organization of white-privileging perception ensure that such perception is hierarchically organized: not only is one set of characteristics better than but it specifically excludes the other. Just as “reason” gains its superiority in part by excluding “emotion,” images of white innocence gain their power in part from the contrast with images of black or brown menace. (To some extent, post-structural, post-colonial, and cultural studies analyses that focus on race may overlap with discursive theories of whiteness.)

    Institutional theories of whiteness in some sense combine material and discursive approaches. On the one hand, they are concerned with systems of privilege that have clear material consequences because they are part of the organization of institutions like banks, schools, universities, and hospitals; on the other hand, the main way in which white privilege is maintained in such cases is through formal or symbolic systems such as etiquette, policy, protocol, or procedure.

    Examples of practices to which institutional theories of whiteness might be applied would include the scientific method, procedures for tenure and/or promotion, grievance procedures, explicit or implicit codes for professional behavior (such as the prohibition in some jobs against certain kinds of “unprofessional” hairdos — hairdos that include black hair styles but not white styles), protocols for the presentation of scholarly research, and explicit or implicit codifications of merit, authority, legitimacy, and expertise. The consequences of these practices can be material (e.g., one can be fired from a job for not abiding by the approved codes), but the emphasis in institutional analyses is less on material consequences than on the maintenance of a system of symbolic privilege through exclusionary practices.

    Just as membership in a country club is deemed more desirable if it is an exclusive club, academic knowledge gains part of its prestige from its exclusion of the everyday, drylongso, or traditional knowledge associated with subaltern groups. (Not all forms of institutional exceptionalism or exclusivity have to do with merit of an institutionally rewarded kind. They also may have to do with an institutional culture. Thus, an institution that prides itself on being fair and colorblind, for example, might exclude any discussion of racism that threatened its self-image — and symbolic capital — as a particularly moral organization.) In short, institutional theories of whiteness focus on how regulations or codes privilege a certain discourse, culture, or value system. (To some extent, CRT, LatCrit, and feminist/race analyses may overlap with institutional theories of whiteness.)

    Personal/relational (or psychological or identity) theories of whiteness address the ways in which white privileging mechanisms find a home in our relationships, our sense of self, and our assumptions about growth, morality, and decency. They name personal privilege, deconstruct the values implicit in white identity, and/or address responsibility in racialized (including white-on-white) relationships. T

    To the extent that our ideas about being a good person, for example, involve comparisons to others (to their disadvantage), our sense of ourselves as good people is predicated on exceptionalism. In such cases, we in effect refuse to address others as equals. Often, such ways of constructing an identity are racialized, drawing on prejudices and stereotypes, implicit or explicit “whitely” value systems (to use Marilyn Frye’s term), and/or racial ignorance (especially willful ignorance). Even the sense of ourselves as “good whites” is likely to turn on our difference from other, lesser whites and on an implicit sense of benevolence and generosity towards non-whites.

    Although personal/relational theories of whiteness involve moving away from racism and towards either anti- or non-racism (depending on the theory), they are not about assigning guilt but about learning to take responsibility for responding to personal and societal racism. Thus, Minnie Bruce Pratt asks herself not only how she has personally participated in prejudice and systemic racism but also “what had been or was being done in my name.” (Although personal/relational theories of whiteness are fairly distinctive to whiteness theory, there is overlap with particular strains in feminist theory.)

    It should be noted that the patterns of whiteness uncovered by whiteness theories may in some cases include individuals who identify as (and are identified by others as) brown or black. This is because whiteness does not refer to a biological, but to a socially constructed category. For example, black or brown academics who internalize white-privileging institutional norms may be said to benefit from and participate in the promotion of institutional whiteness. Insofar as African Americans, Latina/os, and other non-whites aspire to material privileges that are coded as white and insofar as they see that material well-being as earned through individual merit (rather than through a system that excludes all but a few people of color), they may be said to participate in material whiteness.

    It is partly because whiteness can be extended to a few, “deserving” people of color, that it remains invisible: it looks like a generic system that only happens to serve whites better, rather than one that systematically serves whites better. However, non-whites who benefit from white-privileging mechanisms are likely to do so more or less on probation: they may be constantly expected to demonstrate their worthiness, may be tokenized (not taken especially seriously but placed in visible positions to “prove” that an organization is colorblind), and may be disenfranchised if they jeopardize their honorary whiteness (by, for example, demonstrating significant interest in or solidarity with other people of color).

    See also, lily-white Peggy McIntosh’s “50 Examples of White Privilege in Daily Life” in her *White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack*

    1. Comrade Kenny – I have been discriminated against because I was white, because was male and because I was old. In fact, I was discriminated against because I was white just a week ago. I was discriminated against by blacks in the 1960s because I was white. I was discriminated against in the 1980s because I wasn’t female. And then I was discriminated against again by the female hearing officer. I have been turned down for several jobs because I was too old. They wanted someone who would be with them longer, not as close to retirement.

  7. @Max-1

    Yes, Max. You need to have the internal debate about why symbolic stuff is more important to you than real injuries to real people. Gays and black are real people, Max, and if you really had any desire to improve their lot in life, then you would quit wasting your time and energy on posturing. I am not saying this to you to be mean to you. Although, I promise that I will say horribly mean things to you in the future! 🙂

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. Max, I think Squeeky needs to have that “internal conversation” with herself and ask herself why she engages in such hateful rhetoric toward gay people. I guess with her return we will all be treated to her making a grand show of her biases against, gays, minorities, elders, and whomever is on her “to hate list” for the day. She can join Pogo and his group in their Islamaphobia. Squeeky is back, what fun.

  9. Squeeky
    I need the internal conversation w/ myself?
    Who’s the one supporting seggigation and who goes Godwin to make her point?

  10. Max-1

    You are just looking for symbolic injuries. I am sure there are many of them. For example, there was whats-his-name Shepard, the gay guy, who got hung up on a fence by two red necks. Although I heard somewhere the perps may have a sexual relationship with him. . .who knows? Anyway, that kind of stuff excites you! I am sure you still walk around with a lighted candle or cigarette lighter in memory.

    However, there is a whole universe of non-symbolic stuff that you can’t see. You are not mentally able to notice it. Like T. S. Eliot said, “. . . and this card,
    Which is blank, is something he carries on his back, which I am forbidden to see.”

    Which is why you will always miss most of what is going on. Who kills most of the gays in this country??? Other gays who are too lazy, degenerate, and crummy to get a blood test. Or who already know and don’t care who they hurt. These people give HIV to appr. 80 gay guys a night. All so that they have a certain kind of org*sm.

    You can’t see these victims, appr. 30,000 per year, because you concentrate on the symbolic injuries. You are the same with blacks. You find a racist or cop and an unarmed black victim and you are off to the races. Yet, most hatred towards blacks comes from other blacks. They murder each other in large numbers. And, who really hates black kids??? It is black men who will not marry and provide for their children, and black women who do not insist on a commitment before getting knocked up. But, is useless to debate you because you miss this 99% trying to prove some idiotic point. You do not care about the truth of a thing. You only care about your political position, and not reality. The sad thing is, it is really YOU who do more harm to those you proofess to care about. Sad.

    You need to have an internal debate with yourself to try to figure out why you are like this.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. @Tjustice

    Yes, us White Folks are sooo mean! Locking up thugs and murderers and rapists and such! Oh, I am feeling sooo bad about that! NOT!

    What kind of sick individual are you, where you want to turn loose a bunch of really bad people on society??? Do you feel sorry for like, Nazi concentration camp guards, too??? How about people who mutilate animals??? Do you run a support group from, and provide them with stray cats and dogs???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  12. Squeeky,

    Check this out:

    I guess white folks do have black and brown folks locked in where they can’t get out! That’s not to say they don’t have white folks locked down where they can’t get out either.

    But really, people should not have to move to see justice–not white protesters who were tortured at Homan Square in Chicago, not Black and Brown people either. The US should be a place of social justice.

  13. Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter

    Check the prison population lately? Are they not “locked in”?

  14. @Max-1

    Well you know, all those poor black and brown folks don’t have to stay in a predominantly White Christian European type country and subject themselves to all that White Privilege stuff. Would you believe it. . . there are actually countries run by black people and countries run by brown people! Imagine that!

    If things are sooo terrible here, well why don’t the poor victims just get away to to some of those countries because things are bound to be better – in places where “White Privilege” doesn’t exist! Right??? I mean us White Folks don’t exactly have the black and brown folks locked in where they can’t get out.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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