Kenny Hardin: We need longterm strategies, not reactionary eruptions
Question: How Can Salisbury Ease Tension?
By Kenny Hardin
“To be a Negro in this country and be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.” Novelist and poet James Baldwin wrote those words decades ago, but it explains the seething undercurrents of muted anger from living with injustice still today. It’s difficult to bleed red, white and blue and red, black and green simultaneously without being angry. It’s even harder to be bilingual, speaking one language at work and another at home. It’s hard to know where to exist when one world punishes you for being too black and the other criticizes you for not being black enough.
Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who for many is the go-to feel-good answer for all things racially harmonious, wrote critically in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded. This ‘Wait’ has always meant ‘Never.’ Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself and that is what has happened to the American Negro.”
What happened in those two nights of violence in Charlotte last week was a manifestation of anger, frustration and rage, but it had nothing to do with a fight for freedom or against injustice. That was misguided criminal activity. When you loot stores, set vehicles on fire, throw bricks off of interstate overpasses and assault innocent people, you have taken yourself out of the movement and crossed over into something counterproductive to the struggle. I’ve been criticized because blind cultural allegiance dictates you’re not supposed to openly criticize those engaging in nefarious behavior. I’m sorry, but if it’s wrong and wrapped in idiocy, I will call it out, but offer a better way.
I don’t believe in marching, praying, begging and hoping that a person’s moral compass will align and recognize a need for equity. That only happens in Hollyweird movies and I’m not that thirsty for inclusion. The fact that a culture has to even fight and march to receive acknowledgement that their lives should matter illustrates how dysfunctional we are as a society and the lack of compassion that exists.
We need longterm strategies and solutions instead of engaging in reactionary efforts, boycotts, marches and misguided violence fueled by temporary anger. Instead of giving energy to identifying who is racist, allowing idiotic comments like those of Congressman Robert Pittenger to affect us, complaining about what white people are doing to us or not doing for us, let’s develop sustaining, systematic, economic development plans, buy property, increase educational opportunities and gain political strength and advantages within our community.
El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz questioned black people’s irrational concern of things with a limited impact on cultural progression, “You’re out here in the middle of the ocean and can’t swim, but you’re worried about someone in a bathtub that can’t swim.” I’m tired of analyzing the black condition and engaging in conversations that yield no measurable outcomes. We need to pray, but we need to get up off our knees and take control of our community. We should engage in constructive dialogue with diverse participants in search of peace, but we need to do it with more than those who are already peaceful. Great feel-good photo ops, but what next?
Although I can no longer be surprised, the cowardice and hypocrisy surrounding discussions on race astound me. Everyone praised Muhammad Ali at his death for his courage to stand up for social justice, but 50 years later, they denigrate another athlete for taking a knee to highlight the same inequity and injustices that still exist. We pledge we are one nation indivisible, but rarely do our words match our actions. Don’t tell me to sing “America the Beautiful,” but only allow me to see its ugly side and then expect me to remain quiet about having to endure it. Those that are critical of anyone speaking up and out on social injustice are confusing racism with patriotism. To want longevity in life free from the abuse of those sworn to protect your rights does not make you anti-law enforcement or anti-American. It makes you human and deserving of the respect, life, liberty and quality of life every human deserves.
In a recent breakfast meeting with the police chief, mayor and city manager, I posed a challenge question to the table. I asked each what was one thing they could do under their realm of their authority and control that would have a major impact on improving relationships and moving the city forward. I would love to hear from others, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.