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Kenneth L. Hardin: We’re not all the same

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Although I’ve been Black my entire life, except for those few years wearing a young man’s clothes and playing in the snow without a winter coat, I don’t understand my skin folk at times.

I try to get inside the head of my people and figure out what they’re thinking, but honestly I’m left completely perplexed most of the time. Black people both tickle and confuse me with the things we place importance on and what we’re willing to argue and disagree about. We’ll die on a hill and engage in a verbal battle to the death, delighting people outside our culture, over things that have no positive bearing on or contribution to our upward mobility. Some of our philosophical positional battles sadly remind me of how the master would pit two physically imposing slaves against each other to fight to the death, all for his amusement and enjoyment.  

Why can’t we put as much energy into fighting for our voting rights, increasing Black voter participation, putting an end to police murders, protecting our Black children or demanding our women be treated with dignity and respect rather than calling out who’s right or wrong for not liking a Black movie or a piece of spicy fried chicken. Let’s put the same amount of time in fighting these ills as we do standing in line for a Popeyes chicken sandwich. It’s all so disillusioning that we have Black folk engaging in character assassinations simply because people have different palettes for art and food. I’m so tired of it all to the point I want to take my Black hood card and cut it up like I did my credit cards years ago.  

We continually complain that white people treat us as a monolithic and monochromatic group with infantile like cognitive abilities. We’ve long fought to show we’re capable of developing singular, individual thoughts, but when we do we’re immediately criticized by other Black people for doing so.

I’ve asked before why is it necessary that we all think, act, behave and believe the same way. Why hold other people outside of our culture to a standard we don’t hold ourselves to?  I didn’t like “The Help” or the new “Coming to America” movies, and I haven’t ever taken a bite from a Popeyes chicken sandwich, but I didn’t cast aspersions on anyone who said they did or have. I simply chalked it up to being allowed to have different tastes in what constitutes a good movie and great food. I never made it personal or called it out as a character deficiency. I don’t engage in that level of pettiness because I’ve been on the receiving end of that type of misguided logic from some of my people with lifetime memberships in the “Underground Black Illuminati” in this city where quite a few members pretend to be socially conscious revolutionaries. Although we’re often treated as third-class citizens, other Blacks have ignored that and have referred to me as an “Uncle Tom Sell  Out” because I’ve had  the courage to call out idiocy and silliness when I see it causing cultural detriment. Sadly, instead of some of these cowards calling me personally, they do it to other people outside of our community.

Surprisingly, they fail to see they’re the ones selling out. Black people need to stop defining someone else’s character and feeling like we have the moral authority to assign a lesser degree of ethnicity to someone simply because they don’t think or sin like you. 

Instead of us getting wrapped up in heated public exchanges and wasting the vocal energy on movies and fast food, I would much rather talk about why so many of our communities either are dying in the arid, desolate, barren wasteland of food deserts or being overrun and overwhelmed while drowning in the overabundance of the saturation of fast food swamps in our communities. Either way, they lead to the poor diets that have a direct link to health disparities resulting from malnourished bodies and equally emaciated minds.

While I sort out my conflicted feelings about my people, I’ll continue refraining from engaging in any debates about things that don’t move the needle for Black people. I would much rather pour substance into our people rather than add to the degradation we experience so often. Besides, I’m not thirsty enough to drink from every cup handed to me.

Kenneth L. Hardin is a freelance writer who lives in Salisbury, a former Salisbury city councilman and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He can be reached at hardingroupllc@gmail.com.  

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