Black Voices

Fieldston Lower School Looks To Tackle Racism With This 'Proactive' Yet Controversial Approach


The Fieldston Lower School, a private school in New York City, is taking a bold and brow-raising approach to tackling racism.

The school, which was recently the subject of a cover story in New York magazine, incorporates conversations about race into its curriculum by using a seemingly counterintuitive tactic -- dividing its third-, fourth- and fifth-graders by race. Once a week during the five-week program, the racially-homogenous groups of students, called "affinity groups," discuss their understandings of race among themselves, then come together in a racially-mixed setting to share their thoughts.

L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, a professor of sociology and black studies at the City University of New York, weighed in on the school's "radical" method during a conversation with HuffPost Live on Thursday.

"The goal is to separate kids apart to get them to talk about the realities that they come from, to see the diversity within them and then to re-engage in a conversation not simply about 'you look different than me,' but what is the baggage and the weight that we carry into the room and how do we create a more equitable, diverse and just environment," he told host Marc Lamont Hill.

Sachi Feris, a blogger who runs Raising Race Conscious Children, said affinity groups are an "important part of the process toward an anti-racist social justice education." While the program can provide benefits for children of all racial backgrounds, Feris, who is a white woman, said it can be especially useful for white children who are unfamiliar with the privilege they are afforded by their skin color.

"Because whiteness isn't always named and is treated as invisible and sort of the neutral norm in our society ... you have a situation where white children don't even necessarily know the word 'white' and know that they're white and know what the role of whiteness plays in terms of white privilege and power in our society," Feris said.

"So I think that when that's the case, having an affinity group where white students can explore that and learn about that together is really, really powerful."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about Fieldston Lower School and its head-on approach to racism here.

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