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"At My Last Job…" Why You Need To Stop Romanticizing Your Past

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You may have been keeping up with the adventures of Issa, Molly, and friends on the third season of Insecure (and it you haven't this is your official spoiler alert).


What I've come to realize is that with each episode, I identify with a new character (the beauty of Insecure writers' room genius). Sometimes I'm Issa, frustrated and disgusted at my non-profit day job. Sometimes I'm Daniel, feeling defeated and creatively unappreciated. But in episode 3 entitled "Backwards-Like", Molly opened her mouth and surprisingly, she was me.

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You're probably aware that Molly is off to a new firm with other lawyers that are a little more her complexion. Although just a few months ago, we witnessed a Molly that felt underpaid and unappreciated at her mostly white firm, we now see a Molly who realizes that with change comes being forced out of your comfort zone as she notices subtle differences in structure and organization and finds herself repeating, "At my last firm…" and asking, "Why do black-owned businesses always have to be on the struggle?"

First off Molly, I once worked at a place where we had to bring our own cutlery to work despite having a full kitchen and I must say her new law firm is looking pretty well-stocked on spoons among other things. Whether you're a lawyer or a lunch lady, any professional can relate to the stress and uneasiness that can come with navigating a new workspace, particularly as a woman of color.

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There's the initial, "How many of us are there?" game you play for the first week as you determine the ratio of black people to white people. If the seven of you are clearly outnumbered by 36 or so of your melanin-challenged colleagues, you scout out what other marginalized groups you can include just in case ish goes down in the break room a day after the Botham Jean investigation hits the headlines. In those first few weeks, you try to gain a better understanding of the office culture: Do people usually eat at their desks, or can folks be seen regularly eating their Greek salads as a work family? Does the CEO treat the staff to happy hour every now and then, or do they sit in a glass tower choosing to communicate solely through email?

Still, despite the slow process of making sense of office politics, there's probably the slightest bit of excitement that every new person experiences, particularly if their last employment situation was toxic or pales in comparison to the new dream job they believe they've just landed. But here's the advice I give to myself and my peers when it comes to climbing the career ladder:

Every job has its share of BS, it's just what type of BS you want to deal with and how much of it.

In "Backwards-Like," we witness Molly excitedly dancing in her corner office, taking in the view from her panoramic proverbial corner office, surrounded by faces that reflect her own literal color and culture. But little by little, she learns that the comfort of not having to code switch at her new firm comes with some minor inconveniences.

Her office doubles as storage for her files (with no offsite option like her last firm). The new firm also uses a courier service several times a day to get documents signed instead of going digital and she has to log her billable hours by hand. What in the hot dog stand hell does this black firm have going on exactly? Of course, she responds to all of the inconveniences with, "At my last firm…" But the girls quickly remind her that she has to choose a struggle: Being paid less than your Caucasian counterparts but having the convenience to sign documents online vs. Being surrounded by people with whom the respect is mutual even if it means you have to store some filing bins beneath your desk.

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I'm not exactly cashing in the coins as an attorney, but as I progress through the world of public health nonprofits in Philadelphia, I've recently found myself sounding a lot like Molly in the position I've been in as sexual health specialist for the past two years. It hasn't been the most glamorous job. I've been getting paid significantly less than I was in my previous position as a Communications and Outreach Coordinator. With the transition from working in a small staff of 15 to a larger staff of about 50, I was hopeful that there would be some considerable upgrades from my last employer. An actual HR department and not just a controller who worked one day a week seemingly phoning in with actual details about my benefits package. In the past year or so, I was reminded by my own sound advice: Same old s**t, just a different day in a bigger office with more personalities to juggle.

I had to catch myself before I began romanticizing a position that I fell out of love with at least a whole year before I was laid off. As much as I like to romanticize the past and compare all of the shortcomings of my current position to the past, the point is that my new employer is signing my paycheck. Does it mean I'll have to settle for a place that isn't for me for the rest of my life? No, but reminiscing about the glory days at a place that could no longer afford to pay me (and that as I understand has completely eliminated the position since then) wasn't exactly helping me grow into a better professional. I started to think about my career like I thought about my romantic relationships.

All the whining and comparing was doing me the disservice of gaining what I was able to from my current situation.

I wasn't able to take in anything positive from my current employer because I was too stuck in the past. And much like relationships, moving backwards in your career is rarely beneficial. You have to accept that things ended for a reason and keep moving forward. I also realized just because the past had its share of disappointments, didn't mean unfavorable situations would be eliminated from the future. What I did have to learn was to make the best of the positions I was placed in.

Hopefully, Molly will find her groove at her new gig, but that doesn't mean there won't be days when she's feeling like, "F**k this job." What I've recognized in all of this is that as fulfilling and gratifying as our 9-5's can be, they don't define us. And luckily for Molly, there's Coachella getaways with the girls, bourgeois ass baby showers to attend, and the occasional shot of Dro between the thighs that say as much about her life (if not more than) her resume.

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Whether it's love or career, you can look back and appreciate the past without romanticizing it, because at some point they only thing it should have to offer is a good photo for #ThrowbackThursday.

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

Lawd, lawd. I'm assuming that I'm not being too presumptuous when I start this all out by saying, I'm pretty sure that more than just a few of us can relate to this title and topic. I know that personally, there are several men from my sexual past who would've been out of my space a lot sooner had the sex not been…shoot, so damn good. And it's because of that very thing that you'll never ever convince me that sex can't mess with your head. The oxytocin highs (that happen when we kiss, cuddle and orgasm) alone can easily explain why a lot of us will make a sexual connection with someone and stay involved with them for weeks, months, years even, even if the mental and emotional dynamic is subpar, at best.

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