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Kenneth L. Hardin: Yes, this is America

By Kenneth L. Hardin

People denounce critical race theory without truly understanding what it involves. 

They see the word “race” and immediately panic and allow insecurity to reign while feeling an unabated ability to hate and discriminate will be brought to a screeching halt. How dare they force this country to take a hard look at itself? They would much rather we continue subscribing to the ridiculous melting pot concept where we’re all expected to be the same even if it means some giving up their cultural identity. It reminds me how I was reminded so many times, as a “disruptive” outspoken council member, that I needed to learn and understand my place.   

In the wake of the coup attempt at the Capitol back on January 6th, I heard the statement, “We’re better than this. This is not what America is about.” I argued with myself, “No, we’re not, and this is exactly who this country is.” Black folks have seen this behavior all along, but it finally burst at the seams and spilled out for the rest of the world to see. Racism is an American value and should be added to the descriptive slogan of apple pie and baseball. When you have the time and luxury to erect a wooden noose hanging platform on the grounds of the symbol of what freedom and democracy represents, then yes; this is that America.  When Trump-loving Republicans refused to participate in a bipartisan commission, I wondered what the response would’ve been had any objected to forming the 9/11 commission. 

It seemed like the welcome mat was rolled out and the front door left unlocked for the group of terrorists storming the Capitol so they could stroll right in, make themselves at home and assault our democracy. Like most skin folk, I wasn’t shocked or surprised at this animalistic behavior. We’ve been trying to tell White America for decades but have been shamed and silenced into feeling we’ve created a false narrative of the privilege that was on full display that day. 

Our pain is minimized, and our voices muted when we attempt to show our grief through peaceful protests like kneeling and marching. When we simply ask for Black lives to matter, we’re met with hateful rebuke. The only reason we’re peacefully protesting is because we’ve been on the receiving end of the hate the world finally saw. So, as the Capitol was compromised and the symbol of what it stood for was being sullied, I took call after call from skin folk who joined me in showing little to no surprise. Until this country ceases being the petulant child born of an ancestral lineage of hate and violence, I won’t sing that song full of false patriotism and disunity forced on attendees trying to enjoy the escapism of a sporting event. Until this country acknowledges its brutal past and similar present, I will sadly lay my hand across my chest as I pledge allegiance to this hate-filled nation. As a veteran, I will never do anything in thought or deed to undermine or subvert this country, but until America admits she’s failed all its people of color I will continue to be unafraid to speak up and let her know.  

Under the four years of darkness of the Trump reign, the Constitution was used like toilet paper. When he left office, the media grew a conscience and suddenly, after four years of promoting Trump’s circus side show, began reveling in self-righteousness and around-the-clock outrage and condemnation. 

Please stop it, your soiled constitutional toilet paper fell on the floor beside the toilet bowl instead of hitting the water. 

I’ve sung “My Country Tis of Thee,” but the song is not the picture of the America I now see. This is not a sweet land of liberty for people of color whose rights have never been fully given or experienced. Every time an unarmed Black man is murdered by a cop, and his killer evades justice, you lynch a culture of people over and over and render them incapable of enjoying the sweet freedom’s song you made us learn in elementary school. Violence has been the standard operating procedure for this country since the beginning and has always been the answer for this country to make it great. Those in power who don’t look like me control the narrative and spin it to make the victim the boogeyman.

The late novelist and playwright, James Baldwin, said to be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage. I love everything this country could be, but at times it feels more like the “Divided States of AmeriKKKa.”

Kenneth L. Hardin is a freelance writer living in Salisbury, a former Salisbury City Council member and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

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