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Jada Brought Herself To The Table, Y’all. Here Are My Takeaways.

There are two sides...and then there's the truth.

Jada Pinkett Smith

Whew, y'all. I know some of you clicked on this fast AF, but let me just say two things before getting into the whole Jada/August/Will saga. One, we really need to stop talking about celebrities like we know these people personally (unless we actually do). No one is perfect and, honestly, even the hashtag #relationshipgoals is pretty annoying. I mean, I can't tell you how many times folks would tell me that they wanted a marriage that was just like Jay Z and Beyoncé—well, they wanted it until Jay Z admitted that he had been unfaithful. People are human and humans are flawed. This means that relationships also are flawed as well. Every single one. Some more than others. Second, you don't have the time and I don't have the space to try and cover all things Will and Jada or Jada and August. Will and Jada have been married for over 25 years and, according to Jada, she and August have been done for a few years now. We're never going to know the whole story because we aren't involved in Will and Jada's union. As far as Jada and August, I've been in enough relationships—and situationships—to know that perspectives are everything.

Very rarely do both individuals have the same one, let alone the people who are looking from the outside in.

I just wanted to get that out there beforehand because, before I do shallow deep dive into what Jada shared when she met herself at the table today (you can check it out here), I think it's important we keep in mind that speculations aren't facts. Opinions aren't either. We all certainly have the right to both. However, my motivation for penning this is more of a cautionary tale of how we can find ourselves in things that 1) we may not have been prepared to get involved in and/or 2) oftentimes don't have an expiration date, in the sense of when they'll come back up again. Which is why we should always choose wisely. Very much so.

Anyway, as a marriage life coach, I'm pretty sure I could come up with 15 points. But, for now, here are my three main takeaways from what Jada Pinkett Smith, August Alsina and Will Smith had to say about…well, you know.

TAKEAWAY #1: Guard Your Heart

The Mirror

I'll be the first to raise my hand in this class and say that I was sooooo prepared for Jada to skirt around what August said had transpired between them—an affair. After all, when you're "coming to the table" to get to the bottom of things, typically that needs to involve all of the parties; yet her Red Table today was only her and Will. Still, I must admit that Jada was surprisingly candid. Maybe a little uncomfortable along the way (understandably so), but she did admit that, 4 ½ years ago, her friendship with August turned into what she first said was "a different kind of entanglement". Well, she went with "entanglement" until Will offered push back so that she would admit that it had been an actual relationship. Jada said that she and Will had been going through a difficult time back then, to the point where they basically separated and weren't sure if reconciliation was even on the table.

"I was in a lot of pain. I was very broken…I wanted to feel good," expressed Jada. She also shared that she was aware that she was codependent at the time and "It helped to heal somebody". (No one heals anyone by the way. We support them through their own healing. It can take a codependent a really long time to grasp that point.)

As a codependent-in-recovery myself, let me tell you that I totally get where Jada is coming from. When folks are hurting, some reach for a bottle, some reach for pills, some reach for people. For her, it was people. More specifically, August. I guess that, since she and Will felt as if they were on the outs, it was justifiable (especially since she said, later on in the interview that "I don't look at it like a transgression at all…I was able to do some real healing.")

To that, please let me just say that, as a marriage life coach, I think it's important to keep in mind that until someone is divorced, they aren't. Yes, I know that different people do marriages different ways. I also know there have been rumors for years that Will and Jada are in an open marriage (in part, due to her saying things like Will is not her husband but her life partner and Jada also saying that Will "can do whatever he wants" as long as he can look himself in the mirror); however, I'm speaking to the "August Alsinas" of the world.

When you fall for someone who is in a bad place in their marriage, they're separated or even they're simply in something that's complicated, you are risking—A LOT. Not only that but you also tend to waste (yes, waste because waste means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return") time, effort and energy that you'll never get back on a person who took vows with their spouse, no matter what they may have offered you.

That's why, the first takeaway for me is, it's so important to guard your heart. Again, Jada said that she and August started out as friends. They then became really good friends. And then, well, the rest I think is left up for interpretation, but we know that it didn't remain platonic. And what I gathered from both Jada and August's take on their entanglement/relationship is, not only was it intense, there was pain experienced in the fallout (according to Jada, she didn't just up and cut August off one day; he actually abruptly ended all communication with her; that can be quite painful).

Listen, being married doesn't make you oblivious to other people. And while I do think that mature married individuals can have opposite sex friends, even single ones, boundaries need to be clear. That's how husbands and wives can guard their hearts. As far as us single folks? It really is best to go into any interaction with someone who is married (or in something long-term) like they are not an option. PERIOD. If you know that is going to be difficult for you, for the sake of your own heart, health and well-being (not to mention your time, effort and energy), it's probably best to leave "said person" alone. PERIOD. Otherwise, while your interaction with someone who is already involved might be great for a while, it tends to end. Eventually. Case in point—no matter how…whatever Jada and August's relationship was, it wasn't him that she was looking at today from across the table. It was her husband.

TAKEAWAY #2: Love Doesn’t Have to Kill You. It Really Doesn’t.

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I like August. Again, I don't know him personally, so what I mean when I say that is, I like his music, his heart for his family, his resilience related to his health, his openness about fighting through his demons—for the most part, I like what I see as far as how he strives to work through what is clearly a very full plate. But it wasn't my "like" for him that had me totally convinced he wasn't making the relationship up in his head (like A LOT of people claimed before today's table talk). When I saw the video for "Nunya" with visuals that featured Jada's middle name "Koren" last spring (even though he denied it was about her, which was…weird), I knew something was up then. That's because I've dated musicians before. When you move them, you become their muse. You're gonna hear about it too. Literally. And then when I watched his interview with Angela Yee at the top of the month. Whew.

"I totally gave myself to that relationship for years of my life. And I truly and really, really, deeply loved and have a ton of love for her. I devoted myself to it. I gave my full self to it. So much so to the point that, I can die right now and be OK with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody. And I really loved a person. I experienced that. I know what that feels like and some people never get that in this lifetime. So, I know that I'm completely blessed…I have literally never been in love in that kind of way. So much so that, being intertwined in that kind of way…walking away from it? Butchered me. I'm shaking right now because it almost…killed me. Not almost. It did. It pushed me into being another person. My newer self. It…broke…me…down. It was a part of me being paralyzed, trying to pull myself apart. It will probably be the hardest thing that I will ever experience in this lifetime."

When I heard August say all of this, I wanted to just give him a hug. Not a groupie hug. A big sister kind of embrace. I know what it's like to love someone so fully that it almost suffocates you. At the same time, healing and retrospection have taught me that oftentimes, that's not so much love as it's chemistry, connection and need. See, I'm the kind of woman who isn't fond of people saying things like, "Love hurts" or "Love is blind". From a spiritual sense, it's because the Bible tells us that "God is love" (I John 4:8&16), and He doesn't do either of those things to us. From a broader scope, I just think that seeing love through that lens teaches us to look at love from a dysfunctional space. Love doesn't hurt us. Choosing to love someone who isn't the best complement for us? That can hurt. Love isn't blind either. But the oxytocin highs from sex, the total preoccupation with someone who keeps you from using common sense, the wanting something so badly that you'll abandon all reality—those things can blind you to the truth.

I wanted to hug August, not because he fell for Jada. I get that. It's because he fell for a married woman who, through the experience, he said it butchered him; that even with all of his health issues and the loss of his own sister, nothing has hurt him more. Yet, to him, the silver lining was, if he never loved again, at least he could say that he had. Oh, August. You deserve so much more than that. All of us do. Our greatest love experience shouldn't "butcher us"; not by a long shot. I really do hope that some real healing transpires so that he can look back and see Jada more like a lesson instead of the love standard. Someone else's spouse should never be our mountaintop of how we think love should be.

TAKEAWAY #3: ENVY. NO. ONE.

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I'll be honest. Watching Will and Jada discuss this situation today? It's probably the most in sync I've seen them in a very long time (it was just this past April that Jada said quarantine made her feel like she didn't know her husband at all). Maybe it was a united front for publicity's sake. Maybe August's spilling of the beans has resulted in some recent heart-to-hearts. Who knows? But there were a few things that they said that definitely inspired my final point for today.

Will: "We came together young…we both were broken in our own ways."

Will: "[Marriage] ain't for the weak of heart."

Will: "I wish it could be all marriage and miracles."

Jada: "You gotta go through some shit to get the answers."

Will: "There's real power in just knowing that somebody's riding with you, no matter what. And you can't know that, until you go through some stuff…I don't wanna go through this anymore…I'm gonna get you back first."

Jada (in response): "I think you've gotten me back. I think we're good on that."

Will (in response): "That's probably true."

Those quotes? That's not a fairy tale marriage. Not by a long shot. You know, I've heard people say since, forever, that Will and Jada are the epitome of Black love. Lord, y'all. Will and Jada are two human beings who are trying to figure life's journey out, just like the rest of us. That's a "full stop" statement. When other people let us peek into their world (or even when we find ourselves snooping), our resolve shouldn't be "I want what they have". We should be more in the mindset of, "I appreciate what they've shared. How can I apply those thoughts or tips to my own situation?" No more. No less.

Besides, if you get caught up in envying someone else's relationship, not only does that cause you to approach your own from an altered angle, 8 times out of 10, you're going to end up disappointed. If not immediately, eventually. That's not the couple you were putting on a pedestal's fault. You've got to own every ounce of your own disillusionment. So yeah, don't envy other people. It profits you nothing. Not one damn thing.

Anyway, no matter what kind of marriage Will and Jada have, at the end of the day, I will rock with Will from the perspective of marriage ain't for punks and 25 years is a really long time to be with someone. I will also commend him for making this statement to his wife—"I told you the first year that we were married that I can love you through anything."

If there's any main thing to take from this entire semi-saga, y'all—it's probably that.

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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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