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Lessons My Parents' 10-Year Separation Taught Me About Love

Love & Relationships

Admit it, we all hate when our best friend gets a new man or woman, while we stay single and left in the dust. I was recently faced with this abandonment two times over. One of my best friends, who just happens to be my mother, found love again with my other best friend, who just happens to be my father, and I was shook.

My parents have been separated for nearly 10 years, and now, after more than a decade, they've decided to rekindle their relationship and try again.

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Their relationship was the first example I had ever seen of love and set the stage for my future relationships. All of the ideas I had about love, I had developed from the paradigm of my mother and father, and it was harmful to my romantic life. Watching their partnership, which was once so beautifully bloomed, disintegrate into busted windows and hurt feelings made me question the validity of love. What the f-ck does it really got to do with it?

I couldn't help but wonder how two people who had initially been so perfect for each other, could now be so toxic for one another. Love doesn't mean sh-t if it wasn't enough to keep these two people who fit so perfectly, together, I would think to myself.

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My mom and dad are my two favorite people in the world, and during their separation, I developed very separate and individual relationships with them both. When they announced their reunion, I couldn't help but to be happy for them. But if I can be real with y'all for a moment, I was salty.

I knew that my relationships with both of them would change because that has always been our dynamic. When I was younger, it was hot and cold. Either they were mad at each other, or they were both mad at me. There was no in between. Either they were a united front, or separate entities altogether, and I had grown to prefer them that way.

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The day my mom packed her things and decided to separate from my father was a day that all of our lives changed.

This family unit that they had fought so hard to keep together was being stained with their own romantic missteps, and something had to give. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to watch them both grow wiser and stronger, and the two people that I had once known as co-dependent were now free of each other. But something was missing.

I could hear it in my mom's voice when she asked how my dad was doing, that the love that she had in her heart for him was as strong as the day she left. When they saw each other for family events and holidays, their eyes would still meet in a way that said, "I love you," and it made me sick.

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I was sick thinking about how I would feel if my dad hurt my mom, or my mom hurt my dad. I was afraid that our relationship would change and the two best friends that I had grown to know and love had now left me for one another. I was scared that everything would change and I would be abandoned, and things would return to the way they were 10 years ago.

And then, I stopped and realized it. Their love was not about me.

The thing about love is, you can't do it for anyone else. All this time, I had been griping and moaning about their relationship in the past, I didn't stop to think that they were working very hard to create a future together now, and it was time that I let them. Even if that meant the beginning of a new relationship between my two best friends that would change everything. I know now that many changes happen for the better.

Watching the fall and rise of a love as great as the one shared by mom and dad taught me a few things about love and now I want to share them with you.

If You Love It, Let It Go

My parents weren't just separated, they were exiled from each other's lives for a great deal of time. It's true that distance makes the heart grow fonder and sometimes that distance means time apart. No love was lost, and only wisdom was gained by their time spent away from one another, and now they're blessed with the opportunity to get to know each other all over again. That's a beautiful thing to watch.

Keep It Corinthian

Love is patient, love is kind, love keeps no record of wrongdoings. Even if you aren't religious, this verse in Corinthians is a good one to live by. There's no doubt that my mom and Dad hurt each other badly in the past, but it was only when they were able to forgive and move forward that their relationship could truly hit the reset button.

F-ck Timing

Whether it's 10 years or 100 years, love knows no timing. My parents were apart for nearly a decade and there was no "right time" to make things work. When the universe says you're ready, love will fall in place for you.

Both of my parents are in their 60's and it took them years to develop individually before they were ready to become a duo again. Don't rush love just because you think it's "time." The man of your dreams is out there growing, thriving, and preparing to be everything you ever wanted. Just wait on it.

Love Really Does Conquer All

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Hurt people, hurt people. Things fall apart. Love conquers all. Three cliche statements about love that I've found to be all very relevant in my mom and dads romantic life. Regardless of the pain, trauma, and depression that my parents have seen in their lifetime, love always came out on top. Forgiveness is key, and refusing to do so is like drinking a bottle of poison and expecting someone else to die.

After raising seven children, gaining a combined total of four degrees, and developing a six-figure career path, you would think that my mom and dad's story would have come to a close, but it's far from over. They are now living their best lives in the Virgin Islands and after some serious reflection, I am salty no longer.

For so many years, I rejected love and conceptualized it as pain because that was all that I knew. I was distraught in thinking that this thing that everyone was obsessed with, in actuality was a huge scam.

My parents rekindling their relationship is a sign that I was wrong, and watching their relationship develop almost from scratch is a reminder that it will never be too late for love to find me.

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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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