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I Left My Husband & My Hair In 2017

Her Voice

"So you just gon' leave your hair and your husband in 2017?!"


I couldn't help but to burst out laughing as I looked back at my big sister's face on my phone screen. It showed a hilarious mixture of shock and amusement as we had an impromptu FaceTime sesh' that December day. I had just posted a not-so mysterious Snap on my Facebook page. All you could see in the photo frame was a pile of freshly cut hair in a sink and bold words that read, "So, I did a thing…"

Two months after choosing to separate from my husband, I had decided to chop my hair off.

And yes, the cut was most certainly symbolic.

At this point, only my close friends and family knew what was going on and no one took me seriously. The hair I was carrying on my head sprouted at the same time our relationship blossomed. It carried the memories of our love when it was unassuming and new. But it also carried the pain I began to feel as our relationship aged, and it kept getting heavier and heavier until that day in December when I decided to let it all go. When I chose to let go of my hair, I was also letting go of my marriage, which I realized had stopped serving me a long time ago.

The early years of our relationship were the sweetest, even without much romance. We were sharing our college experience and falling in love to a backdrop of weed, fast food, and normal young adult nonsense. I noticed that he showed very few signs of being ready for a real relationship but I figured that would change over time. We were having fun together and that was all I needed at the time. When he didn't even bat an eye after I chopped my hair into a Pixie cut and then transitioned to natural hair all in our first year dating, I was convinced he was the one!

In hindsight, I placed way too much value on how he handled my first big chop and didn't pay enough attention to signs that things may not have been as sweet as I thought they were.

As we approached our one year mark of dating, he took a few involuntary vacations, we had blown through tons of my money with no real plan and the romance was non-existent. But he still complimented me on my twist-outs, praised my natural beauty and wasn't a complete ass-hole, so in my mind that was good enough. It was so good in fact, that I decided to marry him despite the glaring red flags that maybe we weren't even close to ready.

My coping mechanisms for life's bullshit are to smile bigger, find the rainbows and sunshine, and suppress like crazy.

This got me through many trying times, but it also made it easier for me to deal with much more than I should have in my marriage. Not even a year after exchanging vows my with husband, I wrote this passage in an old journal:

"I mean, I feel like I'm the only one bustin' my butt tryna make us get to a happy place, but all he's concerned about is hoopin' & eatin...All I want to see is that he cares for & loves me more than he loves himself but all I've got to show for our love is this notebook!"

The frivolity of our relationship was revealing itself early on and I can recall numerous talks we had over the years about what he wasn't providing or changes I felt we needed to make as a unit. Unfortunately though, all of those pleas fell on deaf ears, even after having our two children in the 2nd and 4th year of our marriage. And despite this, I kept on smiling and being foolishly optimistic with no real evidence of things changing.

In 2016, the resentment and unhappiness I had suppressed for so long began to surface. I tried to ignore it but as I poured all the love I had into my two children, and my husband, I started to feel how much I was missing within myself.

One morning in October, I had finally woken up to how bad things were in our life together. As I drove him to work, I made a comment to him about his attitude and treatment of the women in his life and he immediately dismissed it. I looked at him and saw the irritation etched into his face and for a split second, I believed that I was wrong. That thought faded quickly though. I had to stop and ask myself how could someone I had given nothing but unconditional love to be so aloof to my feelings and the battles I was so obviously fighting?

A few days later, I finally worked up the courage to tell him we needed to separate.

My mind was made up and now his pleas were falling on deaf ears. I was done ignoring the early red flags simply because at least he loved my natural hair. I no longer believed that I could teach him how to give me the romance I was craving, or that I could make him really believe in my vision once I started making real money from my hustles. I knew that the only thing we could do at this point was to separate and he was not going to convince me otherwise.

It was one of the hardest decisions I have made yet, but one that I am proudest of.

I finally found the courage to stand up for myself and act on the feeling in my gut telling me I deserved better.

Fast forward to December. During our separation, I was forced to really think about my hair and how much I hid behind it in both the literal and physical sense. The confidence that I felt in my natural hair journey was superficial because it developed from my husband's approval. It felt forced and I felt like a fraud.

So on that December night, I placed my hair in six twists and cut them off one by one at the roots without a second thought. I remember the fear I felt in my heart as I was twisting my hair just melting away as I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of the woman I thought I would become. I knew that once I cut my hair I would really be cutting off any connection to the lies I had been telling myself over the years. I would finally begin the real process of healing. As I cut off each twist, I felt lighter and lighter and knew this was just what I needed.

I left my husband and my hair in 2017.

While I never saw it coming, it wasn't because the signs weren't there. For years, I practically begged for romance, for him to take the lead in our lives, for him to push me and be as supportive of my dreams as I was of his, but to no avail. We rarely had the really hard conversations and when we did, there was a lack of change afterward. He took me for granted and gave me a surface level love that was just enough to make me content.

So with my choice to cut my hair and make a bold move to serve myself, I also made the courageous choice to leave behind complacency in my love life. I chose to do what I needed in order to fall in love with my damn self so that I could honor the woman I once was and who I was striving to be.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

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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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