Ally members of affinity groups take away from the overall cause

Berkeley High School prides itself on the spaces it provides for students from marginalized communities to come together. Many of these spaces have become a place for students to celebrate the cultures of different groups while talking about important issues that each community faces. Although these clubs are open to well-meaning allies who do not identify as part of the affinity group, these spaces are better able to serve their purpose when only members who are part of the affinity group are involved.

One of the main functions of affinity groups is to create a safe environment for members of marginalized communities to discuss shared experiences, both positive and negative. According to Data Across Sectors for Health, 69 percent of those surveyed on the topic of affinity groups reported “early and authentic community engagement.” However, by including those who don’t identify with that group, it  can make what was once a safe space for open dialogue feel more closed-off.

On the other hand, incorporating allies into affinity groups indeed helps educate them on community-specific issues that they, as people who do not belong to the group, are likely unaware of. This not only helps open minds to different perspectives, but it also creates a new group of allies that are critical when it comes to fighting inequality. Despite this, other clubs and classes can provide a way to learn different perspectives and learn how to be an ally; it is not any affinity group’s job to complete that task. 

For some, it can seem counterintuitive to make inclusive spaces exclusive, but it is also important to understand that although everyone deserves to be heard and respected, in this day and age, equality is a goal, and not a reality. Affinity groups provide much-needed spaces for those who have been marginalized to share their thoughts and have meaningful conversations where they know they will be respected. 

For instance, the Jewish Student Union (JSU) at BHS is given a snack budget by the larger JSU Organization. “We have a lot of people who hear that we have good snacks and they come and eat our snacks and they don’t contribute to the very important discussions we are having … We have events and they don’t participate,” said Eva Stern, President of the JSU. 

Although Stern admits there are some students who are there to learn more and support their Jewish friends, it is clear that a school as large as BHS  merits spaces for students to connect with their communities. 

Affinity groups are a form of equity, not equality, so adding allies to these spaces is harmful.