Francis W. Parker School, a private school in Chicago, promotes “Students of Color Affinity Groups (SOCA)” to students as young as kindergarten. According to the school’s website, SOCA is “open to all students in grades JK-5th Grade who self-identify as a student of color and who are interested in participating.” (JK refers to “junior kindergarten” which serves four-year olds.)
According to the school, while the SOCA groups are “only open to students of color,” all students “have the opportunity to consider their own racial identity and how it plays into their greater sense of self.” The school states that while white identity development is “absolutely important to a child’s development,” it recognizes that “there are a number of factors in the racial identity development process of young children of color that can benefit from direct programming in a way that differs from that of white students.”
In its justification for offering the groups, the school states that “research and experience inform us that individuals in the United States are considering their racial identities as early as age three.” It continues: “young students of color face greater challenges because of the messages they often receive from society and can benefit from connecting with other students of color and being mentored by adults of color.”
The school defines affinity groups as “opportunities for students to come together in a safe, adult facilitated space to discuss their experiences, explore their identities, and consider how their identities influence their experiences at and outside of Parker.”
“Students of color” is used because the term “‘People of Color’ centers all people whose racial and ethnic background is not Caucasian or white.” It states that the term allows the school to “recognize that, while varied and diverse, to this day, because of the systems of race and racism in the United States, those experiences tend to be vastly different from those of people who identify as white.”
The school offers resources that include a University of Toronto article titled “Racial bias may begin in babies at six months, U of T research reveals” and a NAIS article on White Racial Identity.