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Your Broke Friends Need Love, Too.

Finance

It's funny how you can go from living your best life without a care in the world, to hitting rock bottom in one fell swoop.

In May of 2017, that's what happened to me.

For roughly a year and a half, I seemingly had all I ever wanted out of my young adult life. I was a wide-eyed, New York City transplant with nothing but ambition and opportunities within arm's reach. Not only did I have the fancy advertising gig with a buzzing social life to go along with it, but I was blessed to find a hip apartment in Bed-Stuy of which I had always dreamed. To sum it up, nothing could stop me.

Or so I thought.

Clearly, life had another plan for me because within just a week, everything was snatched right from under my feet.

I went from living a functionally independent lifestyle, to not having a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Before I knew it, I was back at home, living with my sister in the small town I called home.

In the last year and a half, I've experienced changes in my finances, career, and even relationships that took a major hit to my confidence. If you've ever experienced shifting from having the ability to create a means for yourself, to suddenly having to rely on the grace of others, you may understand how humbling this change can be.

At some point or another, we all may experience a season where we fall on hard times or have to make major adjustments to the life we once knew. In most cases, it's not by choice, a result of "laziness," or the lack of ambition. Sometimes, unfortunate things happen to even the hardest working of people. That's life.

In my experience, it wasn't necessarily money and a handout from my friends and family. What I needed the most was for my loved ones to be kind and loving to me during that rough transitional period in my life. It's easy to say that someone "isn't doing enough" when they don't get back on their feet in record time, but everyone's path is different. Take it from me.

To say the least, your "broke" friends need love, too. Here's where you can start:

Be Patient.

When you have a friend or loved one who has fallen on hard times, practicing patience with them is the kindest and most gracious thing you can do. You don't always know what God is doing in that season of their life, so rushing them won't make things turn around any faster. Someone who is experiencing a life shift like losing a job or being homeless can be affected on a mental and emotional level. They can go through depression or even withdraw from those around them and it's in those moments when they're going to need a friend and a sister more than ever. Be kind. If you see them slipping, give them a gentle nudge; but don't pry.

Give Only If You Can.

When dealing with a friend who has fallen on hard times, there will be moments when they may look to you for some assistance. It's completely up to you whether or not you want to supply your friends with funds, but in the case you do, no loans. Think about it: if you have a friend who is struggling financially, what is the logic in having them owe you when they didn't have the means to begin with? We don't want to add more debt to their name, now do we? Only give if it's not going to put you in a bind and you're confident that you can go without that particular amount of money without needing it back, ever.

Alley-oop.

There's nothing sweeter than having a friend open the door for another friend – both figuratively and literally. In fact, there's nothing wrong with a little nepotism if you have a sound understanding of your friend's character and work ethic. If you know your job has an opening that your friends would be a good fit for, use your leverage to pass their name along to HR. Even if you don't know of any opportunities, keeping the line of communication open by being a go-to reference for a friend during the tedious application process is a big deal. This will show them that you're in their corner and want them to win!

Love for Free.

We all want to live a little and have a good time, but it can be a bummer to miss out on social activities simply because you can't afford it. Although you have the right to spend your hard earned cash the way you darn well please, every now and again, it's nice to mix things up a bit so that you can include your "broke" friend. Try to incorporate some free fun or low-cost activities into the equation. Check out free events at the museum like "First Fridays," catch up over a cup of coffee on a discount day, or even use a Saturday night for an evening of binge-watching a new Netflix series (I heard Manic was good). Get creative. The coin-saving possibilities are endless and your friend will appreciate you all the more for it.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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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Featured image by Shutterstock

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