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I Have The Perfect Response To "What Do You Bring To The Table?"

Her Voice

On an early Thursday morning last week, a friend and I, both over-caffeinated and excited to be playing hooky from work, traipsed into the city to attend a live taping of The Wendy Williams Show.

The only real plan was to sit, laugh and look cute in the audience, but by the end of the episode I had spilled the tea to Wendy and the world that I exclusively date wealthy men. Then, things got interesting.

My question, posed during her "Ask Wendy" segment, went a little like this:

"Hi Wendy! How you doin? I'm going to level with you, I only date wealthy men. My friends judge me because they say I'm too picky. I do want to settle down some day but they have to have the 'ching ching'. Should I lower my standards?"

Her follow-up questions came in tandem. "How old are you and what do you have to offer?" Wendy responded.

"I'm 38 years old," I answered, "And when people ask me what I bring to the table, I say 'I am the table.'"

The audience cheered as Wendy shook her head and looked at me with a mix of judgment and disapproval. A tense conversation ensued both on and off camera, with Wendy ultimately telling me I needed to "grow up".

Little does she know, only a fully grown woman can make the declaration I did, and mean it.

To provide some context, which many, including a barrage of online trolls, completely missed, at this age, I'm old enough to have lived the struggle love fantasy more than once. Because of that, I have finally awakened to the understanding that pure self-preservation requires both higher standards and higher boundaries in my dating life.

It is a powerful realization when you step into the role of creator of your own life.

You realize just how much you are worth, and as a result, begin to take more care in deciding who does and who does not get access to your magic. This shift can happen at any age, but too many of us come to this realization late, only after we've been drained emotionally, financially, and/or spiritually by a member of the Ashy Association or the Dusty Delegation. That being said, it is never too late to wake up to your power as a woman and demand your worth.

Which is why Wendy's second question is so infuriating. As a connoisseur of the online dating arts, the "What do you bring to the table?" line of questioning is a popular male response to any slight indication on a woman's part that she is expecting more than a cup of coffee and a hard penis.

The response, "I AM the table," is my way to communicate concisely that yes, I have it all, beauty, brains, credentials etc, so you should actually be trying to impress me, not the other way around.

Of course, I could rattle off the fact I'm a Spelman grad, I have a law degree, am a successful entrepreneur, a marketing professional, Glambassador of Newark, author of 100 Things to Do in Newark Before You Die, yoga teacher, and a bad bitch. But does any of that define me or somehow entitle me to a high quality man?

Absolutely not. I could be a circus clown (no disrespect to circus clowns). Irrespective of my size, age, or color, I have the freedom to demand a certain standard and pursue relationships with men that have reached a certain level financially.

Because really, what are the requirements for dating a wealthy man?

If I looked like an Eastern European supermodel or was an A-list celebrity, would Wendy have posed the same question? Did anybody wonder what credentials Elin Nordegren had in order to date and marry Tiger Woods? What about Melania Trump? Or Salma Hayek? Of course not.

What makes me or you any less worthy to date and marry someone of a higher income bracket?

To go even deeper, the "table" question is offensive on its face, because it puts a woman, who by nature takes anything a man gives her and improves on it, in the position of having to defend her worth to a perfect stranger based on random qualifications like looks, credentials, or "freak number." Whenever that question is posed, I now know that you've sized me up and have determined that what little you know or see so far is not enough, so you need a list of additional qualities that I'm "offering" in order to take me seriously.

Newsflash: A woman does not have to "offer" a man anything other than her companionship.

Revolutionary concept to some, but these are the facts. The whole reason men are driven to get up everyday, go to work, have successful careers, and make a lot of money is so that they can afford to impress women and date/marry the dream girl of their choosing. So it goes without saying that the woman is the table. What that means is a woman simply IS worthy, and that has nothing to do with how many degrees she has.

Our value is intrinsic and intangible. It's in the peace you feel when we're around, the joy you get from making us happy, and the diamonds that spring from our womb should we choose to bless you with children.

All the rest is simply table decor.

If you have a hard time understanding this, you are either a woman who has been socialized to think that you need to go above and beyond in order to get or keep a man (it's the other way around, sis), or you're a man who's not a provider and is instead looking for a woman to "help" you (aka cook, clean, provide live-in sex, have your babies, raise your babies, do all the emotional labor of sustaining the relationship AND pay half the bills).

Good luck to you guys. As for me and my dating life, I have made a conscious choice not to settle, because I've learned once you settle, you end up getting even less than what you settled for.

Still convinced that love is the only thing we need? How about some stats?

Black women are the most educated group in America, but we are still not on track to get equal pay until the year 2124. That's how far we are behind. Then, black women leave college with more debt than women of any other race, and to make matters worse, college-educated black women are less likely than any other groups to practice assortative mating, that is, the decision to marry a man with a similar level of education.

Our nonblack peers are practicing it at higher rates than we are, which is contributing to both the wealth gap (white families have nearly 10 times the net worth of black families) and also the phenomenon of downward intergenerational mobility in black families (middle class black children are more likely than their white counterparts to become poor adults).

These stats are horrifying. And yet, black women are still seen as selfish, superficial or "gold diggers" if we decide to set a standard for our dating life that other women wouldn't blink an eye at. This is not about using anyone for a come up, it is about wealth-building for the next generation and the one after that.

It's time as black women that we level up not just in our careers, but our romantic relationships as well.

To do so, you don't have to focus solely on super rich men, but assortative mating requires that you date and marry out, rather than down.

And no, money isn't everything, but we just marked Equal Pay Day 2018, the day each year where the gender pay gap is highlighted and women are encouraged to demand what they are worth and negotiate salaries accordingly. Ladies, I am here to tell you that you should keep that same energy when it comes to your romantic partnerships. Marriage is a business, so you should go into with the knowledge that if things don't work out, you'll be better off or similarly situated as you were prior to marriage, not worse.

Love comes and goes, but community property is forever.

So men, please do us all a favor and stop asking women what they bring to the table. Instead, start contemplating how you can provide a home and a lifestyle that your ideal table fits comfortably in.

Do you think women should be asked what they bring to the table or do you stand behind the belief that we are the table? Share your thoughts in the comment section down below.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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