Hardin: If you’re not helping, then you’re the problem

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 22, 2016

By Kenny Hardin

Special to the Salisbury Post

A lot of folk in this city were mad at me last week.  I posted a video on my Facebook pages showing a raucous after prom party at a children’s play business.  I didn’t include any opinions except to say the content was concerning. The content was more than concerning; it was disturbing.

I didn’t comment on the video, its relationship to the business, the shootings outside the business afterwards or even the massive brawl that ensued.  Even after a law enforcement officer told me the chaotic scene was similar to “driving into a war zone,” I never commented.   But a number of mouse pad activists were mad at me for posting the video.  Denial doesn’t make it any less real or true.

These folk engaged in an 18-hour rant on my personal Facebook page.  I expressed my discontent and told them to move their anger far away from me.  I won’t share the three profane words I used.  They expressed anger for me using those three sentence enhancers, yet weren’t upset that the rap duo performing that night was called Slut Bucket.  They weren’t upset with the use of the N-word and other profane, misogynistic and derogatory language during the concert.

The anger increased because I had the audacity to be concerned about two shootings in the area in a little over a month as well as three other police calls of violence at the business in the last six months.  I asked that their business license be temporarily suspended so that an assessment could be made as to what is actually going on there.  If you have a pipe burst in your home and water is flooding everywhere, you turn the water off until you can get the pipe repaired.

Instead, I was given membership into the “Uncle Tom Sellout N***er” club by the leader of a local civil rights group.  It was said that I was going along with a conspiracy to harm black businesses.  I would much rather hear this organization’s leader speak publicly on the current state of gun violence and gang activity, which has been curiously absent.  I want to hear strategies on how his organization is addressing these problems.  It was not personal and I did not seek to close the business. I responded the same way in a Council meeting a couple of months ago voting against a White owned bar’s permit request that had similar issues downtown. This outcry that anyone is targeting Black owned business is disingenuous and a sad statement on the leadership of those espousing it.

The wife/co-owner came to the last City Council meeting and angrily questioned my character because I spoke out about recent gunfire and violence in and around her business.  I spoke to the husband/co-owner of the business the next morning and explained this was not personal. I said I simply wanted to ensure they are compliant, operating with proper permits and not contributing to the gun violence in the area.

The response from the black community was disappointing.  People with whom I’ve worked in the community, pastors and others I considered friends disparaged me, questioned my character, created division and ruined relationships, all over the posting of a video.  I wish those who showed such disdain for my wanting a safe environment would step up with the same passion and disavow continual gang violence instead of engaging in pettiness. What are you doing to stop the gunfire and murders? Do you come to City Council meetings? Do you serve on any decision-making boards and committees? Do you attend SNAG meetings at the police department? Do you work with Project Safe?

Some complained about the inaction of the current Council, but did you vote? There were over 2,600 registered voters on the West End in the last council election, but only 213 voted.  You had the opportunity to change the makeup if you were so dissatisfied.  If all you’re doing is putting more emphasis on the posting of a video and not upset with the content, then you’re the problem. If you’re just sitting on Facebook criticizing those who are actually out here working to end the gun violence, then you’re the problem.  If you haven’t started, led or participated in an initiative to rid these societal ills; then you’re the problem.

The mayor and I are discussing an initiative to roll out citywide this summer working with students on conflict management.  I’m working on another leadership team on a plan to offer affordable housing to law enforcement officers and new teachers to revitalize communities.  I attend Democrat and Republican meetings, council meetings in other municipalities, neighborhood meetings and relevant economic and workforce development seminars. If you’re not involved in working to stop gun violence and pushing for a safe city; then I stand by every word I said in my Facebook post that offended people.

There are a lot of issues impacting our entire city. We need to reassess our priorities and put our focus, energy and anger on relevant issues, and not become upset about a video, a bounce house, blind allegiance, defending friendships, and denying the existence of crime to protect an All-America City status.  I readily accept all the negative comments and racially insensitive monikers people are assigning to me if it means our city will be safe.

Kenny Hardin is a member of Salisbury City Council.