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Writer Christine Michel Carter On Balancing Work & Raising Black Kids In Today's America

Motherhood

xoNecole's Moms Who Inspire series highlights modern day moms mastering all the tasks on their plate, from day to day responsibilities to ensuring their children are kind, educated and well-rounded human beings. Each mother describes their inspiration, what motherhood means to them, and how they maintain their sense of selves while being the superwoman we all know and love.


There's a writer, marketing strategist and mother who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk and she goes by the name Christine Michel Carter.

The Forbes, TIME, and Entrepreneur contributor has made a career of helping companies understand women just like her, black women and working moms. She's been called "the exec inspiring millennial moms" and her passion for mothers, black women and their children is sincere. Becoming a mother herself was always something she had envisioned for herself, but not something that was easily attainable.

Where some women seem to get pregnant on the first try, her own journey to motherhood was quite difficult. It took "rigorous planning, ovulation tracking, and intercourse scheduling"- but because of the relationship she had with her grandmother, aunts and uncles, she persisted and was blessed with two babies: Maya, 6 and West, 3.

She's a Mom Who Inspires us because she's willing to be a guardian and a champion for mothers and black women. Christine walks us through how her children inspire her professional life and how she became a thought leader for marketing to millennial consumers.

On her happiest memory as a first-time parent:

My happiest memory was the moment I felt like my daughter and I began to bond.

She was born prematurely and spent a month in the NICU.

And I found it hard to initially connect with her because she was surrounded by a glass case, tubes, and monitors. It only took a few days to get comfortable with those things but in mom time, that's a lifetime. When we both became comfortable with one another, having skin to skin contact and spending hours cuddling… it was the greatest feeling in the world.

On how her upbringing influenced her approach to motherhood:

I respect my mother; she is one of the most determined women I know. She had a goal of graduating college before I did, after postponing it for years. She actually exceeded her goal, receiving a bachelor's and two master's degrees. She's been a huge influence on my professional career and I consider her a role model and mentor. But my grandparents (specifically my grandmother) influence how I raise my children. Unlike my mother, my grandmother didn't work and because of that, I was able to spend a lot of time with her. She taught me that work isn't everything and your profession has no bearing on the impact someone can have on your life.

On a career-defining moment that tested her determination:

I remember when I was 20 years old: I was the director of marketing for a regional retailer and felt like my salary didn't align with my roles and responsibilities. I left the company and started my retail marketing firm, all the while scared I couldn't demand a higher consulting fee. I often worried if I ever returned to the corporate world, I'd never earn the salary I deserved because I was so young. I was full of doubt. Still, I took on a dozen clients as a consultant, fine tuning my professional skills and leveraging development tools. I eventually did return to the corporate world and made three times the amount I made when I left. From that experience, I learned my age is just a number, and it should have no bearing on the salary an employer offers me or the worth I put on my own professional skills.

On balancing work and home life:

I'm blessed to have a flexible schedule professionally, and this allows me to put what truly matters to me first: my children. I have the opportunity to attend more class parties and recitals than other mothers, and that's a blessing I recognize and do not take for granted. Also, my aunt is a fantastic support system for both my personal and professional life. She's there at a moment's notice if I need to work a little late or travel for business.

On the hidden life lesson she shares with her children:

Who's opinion matters? (Then I make my children point to themselves.) I find my daughter often taking the opinion of her teachers, her grandparents, and her friends to heart. Once she said she changed her favorite color because a boy's favorite color was blue. Comments like that are disheartening to me, especially because she is a young black girl and may have a lifetime of situations where her voice is silenced.

I constantly remind her only her opinion of her matters, and she has to feel confident in the decisions she makes because she's the one ultimately responsible for them.

On her favorite activity to do with her children:

I love taking my kids to the gym. They have their own separate area at the gym where they play, but I like showing them the importance of committing to a fitness routine and taking care of your body. This isn't something I grew up with and wish I'd started working out and being active at a younger age.

On the times she's scared to be a parent:

Whenever another black man is killed senselessly for having Skittles in his pocket, or for reading in his own car, a chill goes down my spine and my eyes water.

I'm raising a black man, public enemy number one.

Black men as young as 12 years old have been killed for no reason, and that fact makes me feel my son is never truly safe. Honestly, and unfortunately, I'm somewhat comforted by knowing there are other women feeling these same emotions, fighting across the country to show our children's lives matter.

On the three words representing her approach to motherhood:

Imperfection - I want my kids to understand I don't have all the answers and have done things (like all mothers) that I'm not proud of. Relatability - I'm not a "cool mom" but I'm not a "because I said so" mom either. Communication - Above all else, my kids know nothing is more important in my life than them and I think about them every moment of every day.

On how she practices self-care:

I can't live without going to the gym and running. Runner's high is real. I feel so inspired and awake after a good run on the treadmill.

On who inspires her to be a better mother:

My cousin Lindsey inspires me to become a better mother. She has so many professional and personal responsibilities, and I admire her more than she understands. She's my older cousin so she's always been #goals, but I'm amazed and inspired by how she's overcome obstacles in recent years.

For more Christine, follow her on Instagram.

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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