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It Took Me 12 Years To Realize I Was Done With Riding & Dying

Her Voice

All I hear about these days is how glorified being a "ride or die" is. She is considered a top shelf standard partner that every woman should strive to be. No matter what happens, how much she has to sacrifice, or how much she is put through, her continuing to ride is the gold standard.


But the thing about being a ride or die is a part of you will actually die. Even if the rest of you rides.

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Essentially, I am the same woman I was when I started out, however, I am definitely a different woman on the inside. The human being that I was, is gone forever. Somewhere between the call I received from another woman from his phone number, and the child he had outside of our marriage with a totally different woman six years later, I lost myself.

The woman that I was, is buried with the son that I lost.

Hindsight is always 20/20. You're always going to look back and chastise yourself for the mistakes you made and every time you were weak. Hell, there were so many weak moments that I lost count.

There were the times I saw other women driving my car. Then, of course, all of the calls, emails, and pictures that were sent to me by other women that showed him smiling and happy with them, even though I couldn't get him to pose in a picture with me. By the end, I was out of tears. I was used to the disrespect, the lies, and the loneliness. I had stopped being the woman I once was, and he had stopped being the man I fell in love with. The two of us were mere shadows of ourselves, broken bones in human skin. We were hopelessly entangled in something we called love, but at the bare minimum, was tolerance.

When I think back, I can count all of the opportunities that I chose to forfeit. I met men who were willing to risk it all for a taste of me. Men who wanted to make me part of their lives and who they were willing to take me home to their mothers. I wasn't a secret to them, I was a prize being squandered by a fool.

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Turning them down felt like a knife I was turning into my own stomach, even if it was the "right" thing to do. After all, I was married and wanted it to work. Then I'd log on to Facebook a few months later and see that same man happily boo'd up with a woman who was smart enough to say yes. A woman who I knew benefitted from the fact that I said no. His heart was ready to love me, but because I wasn't ready to be loved, it instead was poured into someone else. I'd tell myself that I was happy for him, as I looked at the once again empty space in the bed next to me. "Happy." Sure.

I held on for the sake of holding. Where else was I going to go? I'd ask myself. I became a paragon of virtue: the patron saint of riding and dying. Women in my life, from best friends to acquaintances, would text me, DM me, email me, pull me to the side and say, "Teach me how to stay. You are such a good wife, you value your marriage and stand by your husband no matter what. Teach me your way."

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And I'd wince as if they'd slapped me. It was as though they were telling me to stick my head into a tank full of snakes. I'd swallow hard, take a deep breath, smile, and then honor their request. I would teach them to be quiet and turn their heads the other way for the sake of not being photographed together. I'd tell them how I knew in my gut that I was doing the right thing and because I loved him so much, there was nothing he could do that would make me leave.

But I felt like I was betraying them. Lying to them. Putting them up to be fools like me: riding and dying until the wheels fell off, and then running the rest of the way. I wanted to tell them to run in the other direction as fast as they could, that he was never going to change, and that the only result of this would be crashing and burning. I knew this because I had the scars to prove it.

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Still, I told them to stay, and most of them did. I envied the ones who found the courage to move on, that was until I ended up becoming one of them.

It took 12 years until I finally decided I was done riding. Done dying.

That shit wasn't cute as a teenager or in my 20's, but by my 30's, it was intolerable. Love was no longer enough. I realized that love is not all we need to get by.

As the mother of two daughters, it took seeing them shaking their heads in pity at me for me to finally wake up and say no, this is it. What kind of example am I setting by letting someone, even if it is their father, even if it is someone I tried to ride for, even if it was the man I was with since I was 19, make me look and feel like a damn fool whenever he felt like it? What does love have to do with self-respect, self-worth, and setting examples for those looking to us for guidance? Nothing.

I try to remind myself that this is in the past. I know I cannot live there. Did I make mistakes? Yes. I still do. Life is all about making mistakes, but growth means not making the same ones repeatedly. You know what they say about hard heads? They make soft asses.

I've gotten my bruises and moved forward. What I did or why I did it is no longer important. I am here today, and know that it could all be gone tomorrow. I'm learning to value life and time, starting with my own.

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You have to be willing to learn from the past so that you don't repeat it. Learn to establish boundaries. Love and value yourself so that you're not putting yourself on sale for the next man that window shops in your direction.

You are top shelf. If he's not willing to reach up there and get to you, then tell him to keep it moving. You don't have the time. Own your time, heart, and mind. Your inner peace is more important than merely existing to be loved by someone who doesn't know your worth.

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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
Sign up

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