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We’ve Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who’s Talking About Toxic Mothers?

Love & Relationships

Growing up, I was made to feel like I was the problem and because I was in the midst of puberty, it was easy enough to use the misbehaved teenager as the scapegoat.


I recall my mother holding me responsible for her marital issues. Even more vivid in my mind, is being called an ungrateful b*tch for wanting my biological father to participate in debutante with me (a long story for a different day). And worst of all, I remember believing these things.

As I grow both in age and in maturity, I have come to see things with my mother for what they are: toxic.

Although I know of some of the struggles and hardships my mother faced growing up with an absentee mother, I can't pretend to know everything that comes with that baggage, nor would I dare to share a story that isn't mine to share.

What I do know is that she has beaten the odds like crazy, and as a result so did I. Statistically speaking, nothing about her childhood circumstances would have predicted a future as bright as hers. Not then, not in the years she worked to escape an abusive marriage, and not even now, after we've already witnessed the unimaginable watching her negate almost every statistic spewed about the future of teen moms.

In so many ways, she's won. But in never truly dealing with the trauma of her past, she's at risk of losing a lot more by isolating the people who love her.

My sister has already begun to feel the despair of our mother's behavior. She told me not too long ago that she feels like dying some days due to our mother's draining and constant negativity. My mother continues to push my brother to perfection, begging him to "man up" when he shows his more shy and reserved qualities unfit for her, tragically unable to see how this only hurts him.

In learning that "broken people break people", I've also learned to dial back my anger and evaluate my own expectations of who my mom should be. I'm understanding the importance of meeting her where she is but in turn that means recognizing where I am.

At the moment, as I work towards improving my own negative qualities, that means choosing the preservation of my own well-being over our relationship.

Toxic parenting is a vicious cycle of learned habits that are consequently passed down from generation to generation, if and when they are not corrected. Nonetheless, working through toxic shit also requires us to rise from our own sunken places, even though we are sometimes unable to recognize that they exist to begin with.

Related: It's OK Not To Talk to Toxic Parents

Because of this inability to recognize what's packed away in our baggage, there are a whole lot of kids taking on the unresolved issues of their parent's past. This baggage carries over into that child's own adult life, relationships, and parenting methods.

In being able to label my mother's behavior, it gave pause to my past, present, and future. I was able to undo some of the hurt from my adolescence by understanding it wasn't all in my head. I was able to pinpoint the ways that I'm like her, as well as work toward changing in hopes of not carrying out this particular part of her legacy.

It seems that we've put so much energy into focusing on the threat posed when a father figure is not up to par, that we've completely neglected to inform and check mothers who pose the same threat.

Children fall through the cracks of toxic motherhood everyday, but there's little to nothing being said about it.

We as a society have normalized behavior that is actually toxic. Toxicity comes in many different forms and levels. These behaviors include jealousy, manipulation, and gaslighting, as well as constant criticism, never allowing you to speak without judging, dismissing, or berating you. Then, of course, there's playing the victim. Whatever pretty packaging that toxicity comes in doesn't negate the fact that it's still just that.

Cutting off parents, especially our mothers, is not always an option, and it's certainly never the easy option. But here's a word as someone who is putting in work now to ensure that this toxicity ends with me: I'm not in a place to tolerate negativity from any source. To be real, I have enough negative energy circulating in my own mind, there's no need for me to take on hers as well. If that means distancing myself from the woman who carried me, I'm prepared to be OK with that.

We're often told to be forgiving because of the circumstances that shaped our mothers, but at what cost?

Forgiveness should never mean sacrificing your sense of self, peace, and happiness.

My mother has dealt with a lot of heartache in her life, including a mother who was far more toxic and unstable than she is. As much as I empathize with all that she endured, it doesn't grant enough mercy for me to lay myself on the cross for her. The more I grow, the less willing I find myself to go back to a place where her psychological abuse is acceptable and tolerated simply because she's a better version of toxicity than her own mother.

We accept the love that we think we deserve, and I've been far too lenient in what I'm willing to accept from all parties involved. And, when I think of the type of behavior I overlook in regards to my mother, I know it's something I'd never consider entertaining if it were my partner, friend, or anyone else. At least not anymore.

With that in mind, I know I deserve more than what my mother can offer me right now and in order to seek it out, I have to respectfully decline her love...and so I do.

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

Featured image by Getty Images

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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