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This Time, I Asked 5 Black Women What White Women Can Do To Support Them In Today’s Climate

What do we wish white women understood about the black community? And what can they do to help bridge the gap?

Human Interest

As some of you know, I recently wrote an article on Black/White female friendships titled, "I Asked 5 White Women What They've Learned From Having Friendships With Black Women." The response from our readers was through the roof and it got me to thinking—let's switch this up and find out what black women think about the subject as well.

What do we wish white women understood about the black community? And what can they do to help bridge the gap?

Encouraged to dig deeper into the rabbit hole, I took the same formula from the previous article, with the same ladies, and reversed the context. So, sit back, review both articles, and let's all have this conversation.

Rachel Richards

Charliegh (L) and Rachel (R)

Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Length of Friendship: 6 years

"My girl, Charliegh, is loyal, consistent, compassionate, driven and honest. She loves to travel just as much as I do, but she has actually taken more trips out of the country than I have. She goes after what she wants and is in a place now where nothing or no one will steal her happiness. I enjoy most that we have no drama, we can always disagree and still be OK. We are always honest with each other and never hold grudges. When we don't like something that has been said, it's always addressed and then we move on. I think that's important in a friendship, you should always be in a space with friends where you can be heard or be yourself.

"Charliegh has taught me to stop worrying about everyone so much and focus on myself, which is the encouragement that I've always needed. I would describe us as Erin and Jenny from [the Netflix film] Someone Great. The support Erin had for Jenny in that movie is the same support Charliegh and I have for each other. We have been through our own individual hardships and I know that our friendship has helped each of us get through them.

"The subject of race is an actual topic for us all the time. I have shared with her my experiences as an African-American woman. I love that she doesn't ignore the fact that racism exists. She knows it's still a major problem and she honestly doesn't tolerate it. I have witnessed her directly educate others on racial profiling and healthcare discrimination (we're nurses), and to see the passion and anger she has for my race when doing so, makes me even more proud to call her my best friend."

Click to follow Charliegh and Rachel on Instagram!

Phoenix Jackson

Phoenix (L) and Courtney (R)

Location: Denver, CO

Length of Friendship: 2 years

"Courtney is direct, loud, fun and no holds barred. She has done some amazing things in her career and now she focuses her life around her husband, children, a few business and non-profit ventures. She is honest and open and she is willing to listen to things where others may be closed-minded. She is female empowerment, personified. Our favorite activities to do together are talking on the phone or going out to listen to live music and have drinks.

"The best advice she ever gave me was actually about a man. She once picked up on his behaviors and quickly noted how he was not good enough for me. And she turned out to be right. Since she is so direct, she is also very observant because you can't be direct as she is and be wrong, you know?

"Hopefully, through example, I am teaching her that Black women are not this tough exterior, 'bitch' persona that the world paints us to be. I am the softer of us two. I am also trying to get her to see that we have nurturing relationships with people from our past even if it didn't work out, through my example with my ex-husband. He and I are best friends and co-parenting the hell out of our son, whereas her experience in that area is different.

"Women need each other, we need to love on each other, be sounding boards to each other, explore other cultures together and learn together. I believe that we should have interracial friendships just for the learning experience and to break learned associations about who the other is painted to be. We need to learn to love each other into healing—no matter what race.

"Courtney is one of my newest friends. I have some friendships that span 22 years, so I have always been careful about who I allow into my intimate world. Courtney is definitely worth my time and energy."

Click to follow Courtney and Phoenix on Instagram!

Raynita (Ray) Nebeker

Ray (L) and Jessica (R)

Location: Fresno, CA

Length of Friendship: 15+ years

"I met Jessica at the perfect time in life. I had just moved to San Jose from the small town of Madera after a huge tragedy in my life. We went to the same high school and after a while, I was finally getting comfortable with making new friends. We ended up in the same crowd that day and just totally hit it off. From that day forward, we never went a day without talking and our bond became unbreakable. I stayed the night at her house almost anytime I wanted, her family became my family and vice versa. Now, I truly knew how it felt to have a best friend.

"Jess is the most trusting, honest, passionate, hard-working person that has ever come into my life. She is beautiful on the inside and out and rides hard for those she loves. I love that I can tell her anything and know she will tell me not only what I need to hear, but also keep our conversations between us. Jess has a drive that is so admirable and infectious. She knows how to have a great time anywhere and doesn't let negativity get to her.

"Being a black woman in America is not easy. The expectations of us in this world are different than others. We go through discrimination, judgment and criticism that no one deserves. Since this is something that all black women experience, it is important to always have that in the back of your mind when empathizing with a black woman. At times, we are instantly judged by something we are so proud of; the melanin in our skin.

"And on top of it all, just when you think the world is becoming a better place, one of our brothers gets shot by another cop.

"So, ladies, smile at the next black girl you see. This will show them you are with them and feel for them even though you will never understand their pain. Our black girl community is tight because we understand what we each go through. When meeting another black girl, you instantly have this underlying bond because they know how it is to have brown skin in this world today. Black girls go through things and emotions that others won't necessarily understand.

"Jessica is and has been, that person for me. She has been there to bounce ideas and thoughts off of, vent to, and to hear the good, the bad, and in-between. Womanhood is about being able to trust. Jessica has taught me the true meaning of a trustworthy friendship and I am so thankful for that."

Keep up with Jessica & Raynita's adventures on Instagram @bestietalks!

LuLu Zeko

LuLu (L) and Lucy (R)

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Length of Friendship: 1 year

"Lucy and I clicked due to a shared appreciation for listening to and creating podcasts. We spent a lot of time meeting up for quick coffees before we realized how consistent our communication had been; she felt like someone who's been in my life for the longest time. An added perk was us both working towards another grad degree together and being deep in self-development mode so we got to share ideas with one another all the time. And as they always say, the rest is history. She has become the bestie.

"My Lucy is a beautiful soul, very connected to the people in her life and always down for a mutual adventure or discussions about any and everything under the sun. She's extremely in-tune with what's happening in the world, a full-on news enthusiast and activist, for plenty of great causes. What I like most about her is her heart and how full of love it always is. She's such a brilliant mind and is an ambitious individual who's ready to help anyone out to get their life together.

"She always says to me, 'Stop digging in the trash, there's nothing for you there.' Oh, and that therapy is always a good idea. We compare ourselves to Cristina and Meredith [Grey's Anatomy] because of their intense connection to one another, but on a more whimsical side, Timon and Pumbaa [Lion King] 'cause our weirdness syncs up too well at times.

"Man, I wish Lucy truly knew how helpful her allyship is to the bigger focus of having black stories told. We both work in media and being able to celebrate diversity unapologetically and seeing how much she celebrates it, too makes a world of difference. Just her continuing on the path she's on and how aware and sensitive she is to the black community is astronomical to race relations today.

"Since we both have a strong global connection to the different countries that we've grown up in (she's bringing that Brit-Aussie-Greek-esque focus to life while I have the Southern African-Zambia-Namibia-South Africa angle), our perspective about life has a richness to it that creates an environment to process everything and anything together. That is sisterhood for sure."

Click to follow Lucy and LuLu on Instagram!

Shawna Wright

Shawna (L) and Kelly (R)

Location: Woodland Hills, CA

Length of Friendship: 9 years

"Kelly is one of the most loyal people I know. She is that person you want in your corner. She knows exactly how to balance having fun and taking care of business. The thing I love most about Kelly is that she genuinely enjoys life and lives life to the fullest with no regrets. She has taught me to just live in the moment, and be spontaneous (for example, book that trip to Vegas less than 24 hours in advance), take lots of pictures, and create memories that last for a lifetime.

"I've learned to always support other women I come in contact with on a daily basis the same way I would support Kelly. And to listen before passing judgment because, as women, we have so many struggles we encounter just because we are women, and understanding that even though we come from different backgrounds and walks of life, we have to uplift and support one another, the same way Kelly and I do.

"In regards to race, I wish white women understood institutionalized racism exists. And that it is so easy to overlook because it is institutionalized. I wake up every day with the mind state that I have to give everything I have no matter what I do because, as a black person, society is already judging me, let alone a black woman. My every move has to be calculated to ensure that I defy preconceived stereotypes. It can be overwhelming because the average white woman truly has no idea to always know and think about their skin color, and how to maneuver accordingly.

"To my white sisters, your friend doesn't have to look like you for them to be your friend. Your friend doesn't have to come from the same background as you to be your friend. My friendship with Kelly has taught me that you don't have to know someone for years to have a strong bond. From the moment I met her, I knew we would be friends for the rest of our lives. We have been through the good times and the bad (really bad) times life has thrown at us but we have still remained friends. I love her and wouldn't have it any other way."

Click to follow Kelly and Shawna on Instagram!

Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Join founder Necole Kane, and co-hosts Sheriden Chanel for conversations over cocktails each and every week by subscribing to xoNecole Happy Hour podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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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