Training Wheels No Longer Needed

Wanting affirmation/ acceptance/a head nod from Black people is a normal part of a growing conscience. You want the approval of the person who your people have done harm to because you believe in some way it absolves you of your deep sense of white guilt. Also, white people tend to use Black people as their moral compass because theirs is so skewed. Proximity to Black women specifically makes anyone look moral. Think about how Black women are used to validate political candidates as not racist (It’s like saying, “But I have a Black friend I can’t be racist”). Black women do not benefit from the proximity to whiteness like it does for white people.

A great example of this happened here in Sacramento. Mayor Steinberg used Black leaders to push a tax measure so Black people would vote for it. He ended up using the money from Measure U that was supposed to go back to suffering communities and gave it straight to the police department. Fifty million dollars to be exact. White people use Black bodies as transactional props (just like they did during slavery) but the social contract is almost always broken by white people. They use Black people as a moral validation for their evil plans without any obligation to acknowledge or change the conditions in which we live in. Stop using Black people to make yourselves not look racist. You’re still racist.

When I first began as an organizer, my mentor had a huge influence on how I felt about myself. She was the epitome of what kind of Black woman I wanted to be. I envied her ability to see the humanity of Black people and speak truth to power so eloquently. Her perspective on our humanity and her unwavering dedication to our liberation was contagious. If she liked any of my posts on Facebook I felt like I was on the right path. It was a sense of validation that I wanted so badly because she was/is greatly respected in our community.

As I continued to do the work of unpacking my internalized racism, sexism, and homo/transphobia, my inner new empowered/liberated voice became my moral compass. I am now able to have confidence and not rely on the approval or validation of others (although it does indeed feel marvelous when a radical Black feminist agrees with me). The training wheels have come off and I can think fully for myself now. Her voice and training guided me to find my truth. It didn’t replace my own interpretation of reality, but helped me stay close to the philosophy of Black liberation.

I look to prophetic Black voices to guide my value system of radical Black love even now. I always keep my ear tuned to the people who are closest to the pain. I lean into the voices of those who love Black people on a molecular level, those whose compassion extends far beyond anything I have ever experienced.

For people doing the work, as you begin to separate your humanity from white supremacy (and all its variations) and decenter yourself, you will begin to own the truth, take responsibility for white supremacy, and have the language and courage to address it in real time when it is in fact the most harmful. You will begin to have a system of inner checks and balances that don’t require the labor of Black people. You won’t need Black people to dismantle a system that you built. You will come to respect Black voices, compensate Black voices, and center Black voices because you understand that the voices of the most marginalized need to be at the forefront of the solutions. It’s required. You’ll be more willing to check yourself because there will always be blind spots. You will come to respect Black bodies as human beings and not human shields for your racism.

Elika Bernard is a communications expert, skilled orator, and prolific writer with an extensive history in the visual and performing arts.

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