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YWCA Madison: Letter In Support of Affinity Group Spaces

Categories: Advocacy, Blog, News


The dangerous misconception of race-based affinity community spaces as segregation is not only an expression of the white dominant culture but also reveals a lack of understanding of the history of racism and its ongoing impact in our lives and communities today. 

Furthermore, it also reveals a misunderstanding of the depth and breadth of the learning, unlearning, healing, and transformative change that is needed to co-create realities of justice and liberation for all. 

The system of racial inequity has never been neutral. The false narrative of racial hierarchy has been shaping relationships, cultures, policies, and practices across organizations, communities, and organizations for more than 400 years in the context of the United States. It is important to understand that the root of segregation as a system – meaning a violently imposed racial, social and economic order – was precisely the delusion of white superiority.

The practice of race-based affinity community spaces has a completely different origin and purpose. It is rooted in the honest acknowledgment of the differentiated impact of racism on white and Black, Indigenous, People of Color precisely because of how the false narrative of racial hierarchy constructs white people as dominant and BIPOC communities as marginalized.

The practice of race-based affinity community spaces recognizes that this differentiated impact comes along with differentiated needs, learning, unlearning, and healing. It also understands that too often BIPOC needs, learning, unlearning and healing will result in being marginalized in mixed race/all together spaces, even with the best intentions.

The practice of race-based affinity community learning provides BIPOC communities with the (too often denied) opportunity to center our needs, stories, grief, joy, and healing without having to accommodate the needs of white people. It also provides the opportunity for people within BIPOC communities to recognize, work through and heal from internalized racism, anti-Blackness, anti-immigration, and other forms of dehumanization and separation that continue to be imposed on marginalized communities via assimilation processes as driven by white dominant culture across roles, organizations, and institutions in society. 

The practice of race-based affinity learning provides an opportunity for white people to co-create a sense of identity beyond the delusion of white superiority that starts by acknowledging and reckoning with the ways in which the false ideology of white supremacy distorts reality, as well as continues to grant white communities power and privilege at the cost of BIPOC and other marginalized communities. It provides an opportunity to build depth and integrity in their own racial justice learning and unlearning with special attention to co-creating practices of accountability and actively dismantling the system of racial inequity with transformative action.

The invitation of engaging in race-based affinity learning and community spaces is nothing new, it has been embedded in the practices of movements for racial justice and collective liberation for generations. The accusation that race-based affinity spaces are segregatory is a historic detour rooted in the discomfort that arises when we center the accountability needed from white people to uproot and transform the violent and ongoing impact of racial inequity on BIPOC communities.

As YWCA Madison, our invitation to people, communities, and organizations is to courageously lean into the discomfort that might arise within when offered the opportunity to self-identify and choose to participate in race-based affinity community spaces. A growing body of knowledge and healing centered practices continue to show that the systems of oppression that impact our lives, i.e. racism, sexism, misogyny, capitalism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. will live inside us as internalized and often unconscious beliefs that will have us pitfall into aligning to status quo (which is by default the system of racial inequity) at the cost of each other’s humanity, racial justice, and collective liberation.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of race-based affinity learning, please click here.

About YWCA Madison

YWCA Madison is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen our community. YWCA Madison is part of an international movement serving over 2 million in the United States and 25 million worldwide. For comprehensive information about this important work, go to www.ywcamadison.org and www.ywca.org.