Kenneth Hardin: ‘Make justice a reality for all God’s children’

Published 10:55 pm Saturday, November 22, 2014

By Kenneth Hardin

Special to the Salisbury Post

For several weeks now the weather in Ferguson, Missouri, has hovered slightly above the freezing mark during the day and more like a football score nightly. But, according to news reports, it’s still just as hot as that warm August day when another sad chapter was written between law enforcement and the black community.

Violence erupted in the days after another young black male found his life quickly extinguished in a candle flicker instance under questionable circumstances involving a police officer. In the weeks since, a constant presence of people has respectfully and lawfully protested. They’ve overshadowed those who continually use these tragedies to rob, loot or inflict emotional damage with their subjective agendas and diatribes on race.

The news trucks, politicians and professional activists who are constantly present have done nothing but attack the intellectual sensibility of those who don’t live in Ferguson. Their misguided efforts have created a further divide between the police and the black community, as well as ensured the possibility of similar violent reactions across the country.

I’m not an overly religious man, but I’ve been praying a lot lately. As I fall to bended knees nightly, I don’t ask for material possession, professional ascension or financial prosperity. I try not to be that shallow. In the wake of the grand jury decision, when it comes, I’ve asked for calm, peace, racial healing and reconciliation for Ferguson and our communities here. But, when I look at how we typically approach this, I might as well rub a genie bottle, sit on Santa’s lap or put a couple of teeth under my pillow and wish for the best.

The situation in Ferguson appears dire. Over the last three months, I’ve read more about proving who was at fault, nonexistent injuries to the officer, conflicting autopsy results, secret audio, shaky video footage, cigars being stolen before the shooting, reporters being assaulted by police, testimony leaks, race statistics, military-grade police weapons, involvement by the KKK and Black Panthers, billboards supporting the officer, 700 percent increase in gun sales there, protestors taking classes on how to deal with police, and businesses being boarded up.

I’ve seen black folk crowding into churches singing, shouting, swaying and praying, and white leaders standing up in the same Churches nervously stumbling through patronizing speeches. There have been many examples of singular, cultural and political preparedness, but I haven’t witnessed much in the way of anyone offering examples of collective brotherhood or a means to avoid more violence.

Can the same thing occur in Salisbury? From the many frustrated calls, texts and emails I receive from people who feel they’re outside the margins, disenfranchised, and rendered invisible in a city they feel is not representative of all its diverse citizenry, I say “yes.”

A few of my colleagues and I in the Chamber have asked many people to remain calm and seek better solutions to their frustrations and disillusionment. As long as we continue to engage in feel-good conversations, reactionary leadership involvement and waste resources in chasing a gun, we’re one incident away from experiencing Ferguson right here in our community.

There is a different mindset in the black community today, and it borders on what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in 1963 when he referred to social change expediency via the fierce urgency of now.

“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” King said. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy… Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”

Many young black professionals I talk with have grown weary of being told to slow down, be patient, get over racism or move on. They reject the antiquated strategies used decades ago to effect change and gain equality, some of which are still being used to fight 21st century problems.

They don’t view it the same as Dr. King’s comparison of being issued a check marked insufficient funds. Instead they see it as being forced to borrow America’s pledge money from a Check Cashing store — you’ll get something, but it’s going to cost a lot more in return. So, the violence that erupted in Ferguson was the result of an amalgam of impatience, disillusionment and a lack of trust in the political and justice systems.

Regardless of the verdict, I will continue to fall heavy to my knees and pray that calm prevails from Ferguson right up to my front door.

Kenneth Hardin lives in Salisbury.