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True Friendships Are About More Than Sunday Brunches & Photo Ops

When we push past the superficial, we can get to the good stuff of our friendships.

What About Your Friends?

Lately, we drop friends like flies and many of us do it under the guise of ridding ourselves of haters or cling-ons. Scroll any social media platform and it will be overrun with anecdotal threads of friend-dropping over some of the smallest and most easily solvable issues. Often the issue is not that someone has done us wrong but rather that we have misunderstood what friendship is and how to operate in it with integrity.

A lesson that I learned well in undergrad is that not every one of my friends serves the same function in my life. In the same way, I do not serve the same function in each of my friend's lives. Coming to grips with this truth, enabled me to leave behind the childish notion that friends do everything together, think the same things, and function co-dependently.

That is not friendship. That is dysfunction.

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When we demand behavior of our friends that is simply not within their character, personality, or interests - we show how little we know about them and how little we respect individuality and the primary function of friendship. Friendship is a mutual exchange of love and support, real talk and hard conversations, anticipation and celebration, adventure and shared stillness. Each of these can look differently depending on the one-on-one relationship between friends. None of these must be identical to any other friendship. When we are deceived into believing that all our friendships must function exactly alike, we rob ourselves and others of the ability to be true to ourselves and in our relationships, ultimately stealing opportunities for growth and evolution.

Friendship is more than Sunday brunches, Instagram photos, and being each other's bridesmaids. Just for the photo opp. Just because we look like we should be friends. Just because we're cute in photos together.

When we push past the superficial, we can get to the good stuff of our friendships. Here are three key thoughts on friendships - how to choose them, honor them, and grow them.

Decide Who You Are And What You Value

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There is little we can ask of others in relationships of any kind when we are not clear on who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we value. This is the first key to understanding and appreciating your friend circle. Ignorance to your own values and needs will have you constantly linking up with people with whom you don't mesh. This often leads to misunderstandings, you trying to change them, and them resenting you for not accepting them as they are.

When you know who you are and what you value in life and relationships, your discernment of people will be that much more keen and point you in the direction of friendships that will last.

Define What Friendship Means To You

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Watch any high school flick and it's easy to see how many have been conditioned to believe that friendship means blind loyalty and absence of individuality. As adults, it's our duty to check ourselves on how we see friendship, not only to maintain healthy relationships but to ensure that we don't alienate others with our bogus expectations. Not everyone who could potentially be a true friend to you has to enjoy all of the things you enjoy. In many cases, they don't have to have all the same views as you either - be clear on what views are harmless and which are harmful.

If you cannot appreciate your friends for their unique qualities, opinions, and abilities - chances are, you are either never going to enjoy the beauty of friendship or your life will be a revolving door of friends who you've pushed away for not being what you want them to be. If you need someone to control and tell you what you want to hear, you want a 'yes-woman' not a friend. Be clear and do the self-work to evolve from that way of operating if you don't want to end up alone.

Be Clear On Your Go-To's

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More often than not, no two friendships are the same even within the same social circles. There may be one or two people within your circle with whom you pray and discuss spiritual principles and there may be one or two other people with whom you're more comfortable discussing political views and reality television.

This is not an exercise in creating cliques within a clique. It is how emotionally intelligent, observant, and considerate people use their discernment. Why would you ask your friend who is struggling with her belief in God to pray with you? That is not her strong suit and there is no shame there, it's fact. Knowing your friends' strengths and how they show up best in your life is paramount to maintaining healthy friendships.

Make Sure You Show Up As A Friend, Too

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Society has a way of causing us to look outward at what everyone else is doing while we gloss over how we're showing up in the world. Are you a good friend? One of the best ways to draw quality friendships into your life is to decide to be a good friend. To operate in integrity in your relationships. To show up for those you care for as honestly and lovingly as you can without depleting yourself.

Friendship is a gift. It is more than an Instagram Boomerang or girls' night out. To get to the crux of its beauty, we have to commit to valuing the uniqueness of each relationship we have. That's where the treasure lies. That's where our lives can be enriched and we can enrich others'

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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Originally published October 17, 2018

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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