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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

District U-46 launching separate ‘affinity groups’

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 is launching what it calls a “bringing together of people” by dividing people apart.
  Teresa Lance, assistant superintendent of equity and innovation, sent a message to staff stating the district was launching what are called “affinity groups.” Lance has publicly made partisan political endorsements of Democrat party candidates and called Republicans “racist.”
  “Affinity groups… are intended to provide spaces for people to work together within their own identity group,” Lance wrote. “Affinity groups support the mental health of individuals as well as the health and well being of an organization. They contribute to inclusivity and may positively impact an organization’s retention and reputation.”
  The groups, which are voluntary, would segregate people based on “identity” from race to sexual orientation. A district document sent to staff states such groups are used “as a bringing together of people.”
  “Race-affinity groups provide a safe space to connect and support one another while also processing their lived experiences,” the document states.
  The document suggests that minorities, particularly black employees, face struggles when working with other races. It states that “African Americans experience trauma frequently” when in “White-dominant working environments.”
  In 2020-2021, the district is creating “African American, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, White Allyship, and LGBTQ” groups and it plans to add “groups in subsequent phases of the work,” the document states.
  The Examiner asked the district about the purpose of the groups including if they are for teachers to create lesson plans or if they are mostly social groups.
  “These groups are open to anyone in the District, not just teachers, and are intended to support the goals listed under both our Strategic Plan and our Equity Plan,” said Mary Fergus, director of school and community relations. She added: “Affinity groups are for individuals who identify as members of the group and can speak to the experience of being a member of the group from the ‘I’ perspective.”
  Asked what “White Allyship” means, Fergus said it’s a “group with a common commitment” to be confrontational.
  “A white ally acknowledges the limits of her/his/their knowledge about other people’s experiences but doesn’t use that as a reason not to think and/or act,” Fergus said. “A white ally does not remain silent but confronts racism as it comes up daily, but also seeks to deconstruct it institutionally and live in a way that challenges systemic oppression, at the risk of experiencing some of that oppression. Being a white ally entails building relationships with both people of color, and also with white people in order to challenge them in their thinking about race. White allies don’t have it all figured out, but are deeply committed to non-complacency.”

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