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5 Signs Of A Toxic Friendship That Is Secretly Poisoning Your Life

Sometimes, it's the closest people to you who are actually the worst ones for you.

What About Your Friends?

I'm willing to bet some pretty good money that within the past six months alone, you've read at least three articles about toxic relationships. Because of that, you probably already know what toxic means ("poisonous"). You are also probably aware of many telltale signs that you're involved in a toxic relationship or friendship.

But here's something that just might surprise you about toxicity. Did you know that some of the very things that prove to be lethal in heavy doses can actually be tolerated in smaller ones? Snake venom is one example.

When I first discovered that, it got me to thinking. With as much poison – "something harmful or pernicious, as to happiness or well-being" – that a lot of us take in our friendships, sometimes without even knowing it (at first), I'd venture to say that the same thing is happening emotionally. We're remaining in friendships that are not even close to being good for us because the poison that we're taking in is in such small doses that it's going undetected. Keeping that analogy in mind, here are five signs that one (or more) of your friendships is toxic and harming you—whether you realize it or not.

5 Signs Of A Toxic Friendship

1. They Don’t Celebrate You.

You know what's dope? The people who use their social media to big up their friends as much as themselves. The individuals who brag on their peeps more than they gossip about them. The folks who recognize when those close to them are trying to reach a goal and they use some of their own time and resources to help them out.

When you're young, you want friends to kick it with. But as you get older, you tend to want more of a support team. People who want you to win. People who are thrilled to celebrate your goals and achievements right along with you.

If you've got friends who are around when you're low but are somehow always MIA during your really good times—something is off. Unfortunately, some people are only around in the bad times because it makes them feel better about themselves. And that? That is toxic. A good friend is going to be there for ALL of the life experiences that you have. They will pull up in bad times and raise you even higher in good ones.

2. They’re Emotionally Manipulative.

This one right here? Chile, don't get me started. Some of us have been emotionally manipulated so much and for so long that we have no clue how to detect the signs. Let me help you out. If you've got friends who twist your words around, are passive-aggressive, give you the silent treatment when things don't go their way, constantly speak over you in a conversation, pressure you to do things you don't really want to do, make you feel bad for having your own perspectives and opinions, constantly criticize you or they deflect from their own issues—yes, you are being emotionally-manipulated and no, it isn't right.

3. They Can Dish What They Can’t Take.

The great novelist, poet, and activist Alice Walker once said, "No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow." Here's the thing, though. A good friend not only gives you the space and freedom to grow, but they also challenge you to grow too. In other words, they call you out on your stuff, tell you when you're dead wrong, and hold you accountable whenever you need it. And you know what? It goes both ways.

If you've got the kind of "friend" in your life who is all about telling you about yourself or pointing out your flaws and weaknesses but, at the same time, they can't receive any insight and constructive criticism you have to offer? Those kinds of people are not looking for friends; they are looking for fans. It can be another subtle sign of being in a toxic friendship situation.

4. You Can’t Give Five Good Reasons to Remain in the Friendship.

I say it all of the time. One of the best movie lines is from Love Jones. It's when Nina (Nia Long) was talking to her ex-fiance' about how things weren't working out. When he said that was hard to believe due to all of the time they had been together, Nina responded with, "All we have are all these years." #itwillpreach

Many of us have confused time for loyalty. In other words, just because you've known someone for years and years, that's not a good enough reason to keep them in the innermost realms of your life.

If you pulled out a piece of paper right now and you can't find five bonafide benefits that come from being in your friendship with someone, while it might not be time to cut them off, it's definitely (past) time to realign your boundaries.

5. The Friendship Is Stagnant.

Everything that's good and healthy in life is supposed to show signs of progress. Our careers, our romantic relationships and, yes, even our friendships. If your friends aren't helping and encouraging you to evolve into a better person – both personally and professionally – no matter how much you like them, something is subtly toxic.

Would you stay at a job or in a relationship for 10 years that showed no signs of growth or moving forward? Then why would you do that with/for a friend? My point exactly.

Do yourself a favor (and your real friends) a favor. Cut out the toxicity in your life.

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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
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