Ken Hardin: Unapologetically black is not radical

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

By Kenny Hardin

Special to the Salisbury Post

I’m not afraid to be black. I don’t understand why people are as if in doing so is an abhorrence or similar to a dreaded terminal illness. Not all of my skin folk feel this way. I had a friend say to me recently how he loves the way his black skin evokes emotions of awe, respect, jealousy, fear and reverence all at once. I like that, but it raised several questions.

I wonder if people that have less melanin content think about the value and reaction associated with their paleness?

I wonder if there needs to be an identified leader of the white, Asian or Hispanic communities? Do these other communities need to be led as people feel the Black community does?

Do they have to be hand-held and spoon-fed to ensure their progress from an infantile state to the ability to have individual, progressive thought? I question why I never hear the term “white on white crime” even though their proximity murders closely mirror those of blacks killing blacks? If all of this somehow translates into showing black people we’re special, then please stop treating me so well.

There’s a misunderstanding when people say they embrace their culture and are unapologetically black. Being black on purpose doesn’t equate to being radical, angry or seeking preferential treatment. There’s not a group of disgruntled people sitting in a room watching a PowerPoint presentation to create irrational fears or to force demands on mainstream society. If there is such a meeting, I’ve never been invited or taught the secret handshake. It simply means I want to be able to embrace who I am and not have to engage in any form of denial to have a normal existence.

Sadly, I’ve had other black people publicly apologize for my cultural comfort. I mourn for those who readily compromise their beliefs and integrity, deny their heritage and turn their backs on their community for financial gain and acceptance into an unforgiving world. I’ve had many of those same misguided folk reach out to me in emotional and psychological pain when they realize they don’t exist in a colorblind society.

But, the bigger question I have is why is there so much external fear associated with something as meaningless and irrelevant as skin hue? People treat and react to dark skin tone as if it’s something that can be purchased at a high-end clothing store, and then taken to the Goodwill for a tax credit when it’s no longer new and exciting.

This is what confuses me about the strong negative reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. If all lives did matter equally, then there would be no reason to say blacks ones need a little extra seasoning on them to taste better. I agree blue lives matter because I used to be blue. When the uniform is taken off after a 12-hour shift, blue lives can blend in with the background, but my dark suit is going to remain visible, feared and challenged 24 hours a day.

All people of color are seeking is respect, dignity, humanity and to feel as if their lives hold value. If you’re unwilling to understand that or have an argumentative response to that plea, you have no humanity within you.

After an epidemic level of police-related murders of black men, to repeat the worn out mantra of “be patient, be calm, let’s come together, let’s just pray and let’s have unity” is disrespectful and patronizing. It demonstrates a level of privilege that comes across as lacking concern and sincerity simply because it doesn’t impact you directly.

The refusal to acknowledge and understand the emotional, psychological and physiological effects of decades of continued similar trauma is even more troubling. I have three sons and I fear for them every day. If this is something you don’t have to worry about, then consider yourself fortunate.

I’m still struggling after the events of last week, but I know I have to be a voice of calm and reason for the many who have reached out to me. I’ve mediated and dealt with my anger while trying not to increase the anger of others, some who wanted to physically retaliate. What I found disappointing were comments from those who attempted to tell me how to feel, what to think, how to respond to those who reached out and the expediency in which I was to grieve before moving on. Yes, we need to come together, but immediately calling for unity minimizes the seriousness of what occurred and the legitimate feelings of those hurt by it.

It gives the perception it’s only important to move on as long as it’s beneficial to those outside of the community. There is no genuine concern about solving an issue if it can be made to disappear quickly without compassion and understanding. I don’t recall this level of urgency for reconciliation and unity when the first two black men were killed. Oddly, all lives didn’t seem to matter and the silence was deafening until the Dallas cops were killed.

Every life is important, and there’s no room for hate and fear to exist. Just as people implore the stop-snitching code to disappear within the black community, the start-snitching code needs to appear in the law enforcement community. The good cops need to expose the bad ones instead of defiantly condemning anyone who criticizes them.

It’s possible to say black lives matter and not mean other lives are less important. Asking for your life to have meaning, value and longevity shouldn’t be up for argument or debate.

Kenny Hardin is a member of Salisbury City Council.