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Do You Talk About Money With Your Girlfriends?

What About Your Friends?

I'd like to believe that there's no room for ego, competition, or jealousy in even the most genuine, ride or die friendships.


We subconsciously compete with so many people on a daily basis: the over-zealous new graduate with the shiny Master's degree in something avant-garde like Entertainment Engineering, the old classmate who has to be on like her third vacation this year and posting her Bora Bora bungalow on Snapchat, these thirsty Instagram models who seem to spend their days twerking in infinity pools and tagging your boo Kofi Siriboe.

Issa Rae was right on the money with her message that insecurity can hit you anywhere, anytime, and over the most random things.

Luckily most of the time, it's fleeting and you scroll a bit and get a reminder in the form of a validating quote that reminds you that you run shit and you got this this thing called life. When it comes to feeling inferior or out of place, that last place you expect to have those feelings is in the company of your girlfriends. But there's one topic that can instantly turn any exchange into an awkward dance of, "I do OK…" and "I make a decent amount for what I do."

And that's the salary conversation.

It usually comes up when a friend lands an interview or a promotion. She may excitedly tell you about her new roles and responsibilities, the perks of free lunches, and even the cute shadow boxes she plans to decorate her office with. But when it comes to climbing the career ladder, we'd inevitably be lying if we said we were all in it for passion and making a difference.

"Difference-making" doesn't pay for bungalows in Bora Bora. So it always makes me chuckle a little how we all seem to stumble around directly stating our salary, even with our closest friends.

Why does how much (and definitely how little) we make, make us so uncomfortable?

In "The Real Reasons Millennial Women Don't Talk About Their Salaries", author Arianna Davis says the salary conversation is so painful because, secretly, women are competitive. She references an Angela Rye podcast, which featured sports anchor Jemele Hill in which she discussed that the anxiety surrounding the coins conversation is often rooted in jealousy:

"There are a lot of people who don't want to share their salary information because they don't want other people to have that come up. If I tell her that I make this, she might make the same as me, and I don't feel comfortable with that. So some of it is rooted in jealousy."

Davis goes on to share an uncomfortable truth that many woman can probably relate to:

"Hill's words pushed me to confront an ugly truth: A part of me doesn't want to discuss my salary with others because I'm competitive. Deep down, I worry that once I open that can of worms, there are only two outcomes, and I don't like either of them. One, the person I'm talking to will make more than me, which would make me want to figure out how to make what they make. Or worse: I'll make more than them, and they'll try to make what I make. Which would somehow make me less...special?"

When it comes to jealousy, especially within our circles of friends, most of us would like to shove it in a drawer under the period underwear that only get used once a month, and deny it exists. But whether it comes to divulging intimate details about your coins, love life, or everything in between, the first step to clearing the awkward air is to confront and acknowledge jealousy and competition.

It's natural to feel the occasional twinge of jealousy and resentment. It reaffirms that we still want more and better for ourselves and are still growing. It only becomes a problem when you live with jealousy on a daily basis instead of living your own life. Have I been jealous when hearing a BFF's salary and learning she doesn't have to make the hard ass choice of getting the store brand bathroom cleaner or Scrubbing Bubbles because payday isn't for at least three days? Hell yes, but usually that quickly passes and I remind myself that my professional path and paycheck are custom made for me and I'm cool.

Thou shall not covet my homegirl's Target cart and shall appreciate all that is going on in my life and what I bring to the friendship besides the petty and played out "Who Is Doing Better At Life?" game.

Look, I'd love for me and my homegirls to be getting our Girlfriends on slamming our credit cards on the dinner table like we've got the "Draw four" cards on lock after we've finished discussing the glamourous days in the lives of our careers as realtors, lawyers, and best-selling authors. But we missed the Mara Brock Akil boat and ended up overworked and underpaid as non-profit, healthcare, and retail workers. I thought about this as I listened to my sister vent yesterday after a phone call with her best friend who was currently in that stage when right after achieving a goal and landing her dream job, she immediately turned into Oprah and wanted to school anyone within 10 feet of her on how they too could be successful. She was expectedly obnoxious, something I told my sister would wear off along with the newness of the job. By the end of the conversation, my sister had fallen into the comparison trap as she questioned her own career path and checking account balance.

Her self-worth, professional goals, and career accomplishments were all being scrutinized because of numbers on a pay stub that everyone was hesitant to share.

Money conversations are awkward and it will always be uncomfortable talking finances with colleagues, family, friends, and even our spouses because we live in a culture where salaries and titles are associated with personal value and self-worth. It's the reason we can share graphic details with our girlfriends about everything from yeast infections to childbirth, but when it comes to money, we start using secret code like we're about to spoil the last episode of Queen Sugar. It's because we believe only one of a few outcomes will result from the salary conversation.

Either our friends will think we're balling and expect us to foot the bill for every brunch, girls' trip, or Uber until the end of time. Or they will think we are unmotivated bums who shouldn't possess a Netflix subscription if we are doing creative math to pay a car note every month. Even actress Tracee Ellis-Ross recently shared in a Vanity Fair feature how uncomfortable it made her when fans were discussing her take-home pay when it was rumored a pay gap existed on the Black-ish set and she was paid a significantly lower amount than co-star Anthony Anderson:

"That was really fucking awkward. I don't know how that information got out. But I understand the interest because there is a larger, deeper, more important conversation going on that is not about me, but is about people being paid appropriately for their contribution and the work that they do, not because of their gender, race, or anything."

Stacy Lastoe believes, however, that sharing your salary with friends is a good thing and it's time that we normalize it. In "It's Time To Start Telling Our Friends How Much Money We Make" the author shares that awkward feeling that comes with conversations about finances with friends is universal:

"The thing is, talking about money is awkward. Correction: Talking about salary-related finances is awkward. It makes people feel uncomfortable."
"But when it comes to how you negotiated your latest job offer, you're probably more apt to say that you bargained for a couple thousand dollars (if you're apt to say anything at all), not that you got them to go up to 55K. Something about disclosing the actual number is unfamiliar and foreign-sounding. Somehow announcing, 'I got a new job and I'll be making 63K a year,' over brunch doesn't feel normal—for lack of a better word."

In a world of social media where context is lost and miscommunication occurs with every click, all too often sharing comes off as bragging, and telling too little comes across as shame or deceit. But Lastoe feels with #TimesUp taking the forefront in Hollywood and now other industries, discussing your salary with your friends may help you get what you truly deserve from your career in the long run:

"Knowing what other people in your field get paid is vital to stop the gender wage gap. And negotiating is more likely to become second nature during the job offer process if we talk about our earnings with others."

Whether your direct deposit amount is only on a need to know basis, or you're dropping the details about how much you made last year like Drake on a diss track, it's always healthy to exercise financial boundaries that best fit your friendships. It's why I don't lend or front money I can't afford to lose. I also don't attempt to "balance my friends' checkbooks," which basically means if they want to break the bank on On The Run II tour tickets and skip their student loan payment, I don't judge or offer unsolicited advice.

Lastly, and most importantly, I don't assess their self-worth on what position is listed on their ID badge or the value an employer has placed on how they spend their time eight hours a day.

If there's anything I learned after experiencing a number of promotions, one lay-off, several interviews, and basically watching my career perform like a damn ping pong table in the last five years, it's that we need to start investing a lot more energy, effort, and faith into the people and things in our lives that are unconditional. If my best friend wanted to jump up from her desk today and become a soybean farmer in Japan and make two cents an hour, it wouldn't make me look at her differently, as long as we could still schedule several saki happy hours over the year and I could still cry on her digital shoulder for several seconds every time Drake is rumored to be banging another big booty Instagram model.

If there's anything we can learn from the unfortunate suicides of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain in the past month or so, is that we shouldn't equate happiness or self-esteem with fancy professional titles or career accomplishments. I'm not saying abandon any career drive you have this second and say, "F my bills as long as my bitches love me," but I am saying that your family and friends should be looked at and valued through a lens of love for their spirit and what they contribute to the world besides their base pay.

When you create that type of energy in your personal relationships, you'll find that you'll be able to maintain your privacy while still feeling safe to talk about topics that would traditionally be taboo.

It's understandable if your paycheck is still a very personal and private thing. In a Refinery29 survey related to the article, Davis discovered more than 3,000 women ages 25-34 found that only 7% of respondents share their salaries with colleagues, and just 17% share that number with friends. However, what does it say about our relationships with ourselves and those we love if we feel as though sharing our salaries has that much of an effect on how we see ourselves and each other?

Maybe it's time we start redefining our worth on the things that matter most like the bonds we share with those who reaffirm that we are more valuable than any tax bracket we belong to.

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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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