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If You Want To Get To The Root Of Things, Try My One-Word Test

Gaining clarity is key.

Inspiration

I really like words. I write for a living. I have quotes all over my bedroom. I'm always looking up word definitions. I'm currently studying the Hebrew language. My top love language is Words of Affirmation. Ask any of the editors I've had and they'll tell you that I'm the girl who goes over the word cap with almost every article I write. Words are my thang.

Most times, all of this works in my favor. But there have been instances when my appreciation for lots of words has backfired.

For instance, something that I'm a firm believer in is if you know your purpose in this life, you should be able to break it down into three words (or three terms or phrases). For me, I'm here to speak on sex, marriage, and the Sabbath. Three words. However, I spent A LOT of time not being clear on this, all because being wordy kept me from simplifying things.

Someone would ask me what my calling was and I'd be like, "I mean, I know I really like so-and-so or such-and-such but I can't put my finger on how to explain it in a way that make sense, so…" See how much of a run-on sentence that is? I was so used to using words—and sometimes talking too much—that I wasn't getting to the root of matters. Not only does that drain a lot of energy, it wastes a ton of time.

I had to find a way to remedy this. So, at the top of 2018, something that I decided to do was implement a one-word test. Meaning, I would force myself to break things down in one-word.

I told myself that if I couldn't do that, I was unclear about the issue at hand. And without clarity, it's hard to find any sort of resolve. Here's what I mean:

When I thought about what I needed to get my finances right, the word that came to mind was DISCIPLINE.

When I thought about what I lacked in a lot of my relationships, the word that came to mind was RECIPROCITY.

When I thought about what I needed in order to heal from some family toxicity I was experiencing, the word that came to mind was SPACE.

When I thought about what I lacked in a lot of my relationship dynamics that I would require to move forward, the word that came to mind was PROTECTION.

When I thought about why it was time to end a 15-year relationship with a male "friend" of mine, the word that came to mind was NARCISSISM.

When I thought about what I needed to give myself, the word that came to mind was PAMPERING.

Once I had a word in mind, I started lining up various areas of my life around it.

For example, since I said I needed pampering, I've spent most of this year doing that. I'm not overwhelming myself with a ton of self-work (after all, you typically can only effectively clean one room of a house at a time). I'm not incessantly journaling, taking a ton of self-help seminars or chain reading a pile of books. I'm investing in essential oils, loading up on vitamins and herbs, and keeping my (sometimes weekly) mani/pedi appointments. Because I am focusing all of my energy into pampering—no more, no less—it's teaching me some things about myself that I didn't know before. Things like, a part of the reason why I would get into relationships where there was no "reciprocity" is because I didn't know how to make myself a priority, let alone show others how to do it. Pampering has taught me that.

Or the narcissism thing. Do any of you remember how in the movie Enough (Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell), it was years into their marriage before the husband started showin' out? That's the thing about abuse and staying in abusive situations—sometimes the abuse is so sporadic that you justify staying.

The guy I was in the friendship with is a bonafide NARCISSIST. I mean, the epitome of it. So much so that whenever he would hurt me and I would tell him (remember, I'm wordy so, of course, I told him!), he would either totally ignore me (which is abusive in and of itself) or try and turn it around so that I would end up apologizing to him.

Until I got down to the one word that would adequately describe our cycle, I used to say he was that way because he was hurting or it was due to his own childhood abuse or the pressure surrounding his profession/platform; nonetheless, there is some truth to all of that. Oh, but when I started to study narcissism, not only did I see exactly the kind of person I was dealing with, it also brought me to the conclusion that until he got some therapy and actually did apologize for hurting me (without my asking for it or "babying him" through it), we needed to not communicate. It also helped me to detect narcissists in general.

What's something in your life that you just can't seem to get down to the bottom of? Rather than spending hours on the phone with one of your girlfriends or creating carpal tunnel syndrome by journaling pages of stuff about the issue, how about implementing my one-word test? Describe how you feel, what you need or what is missing in ONE WORD, and then build a plan around that.

Some of the most complex problems have the simplest answers.

Breaking things down into one word has taught me that.

Featured image by Getty Images

Originally published on December 5, 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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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