Kenneth L. Hardin: Black women need more support, respect

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 11, 2021

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Black women need more support and respect. They need it like a diabetic needs insulin, like my grits need jelly or like my eggs taste better with hot sauce. 

Now that I’ve introduced my case so eloquently, let me expound. I’ve had a cadre of strong Black women in my life that have helped shaped me to become the strong man I am today. Most of my teachers from kindergarten through high school were Black women who taught me the fundamentals of learning, but also nurtured me like I was one of their own. Each week, I send all my articles to my favorite former teacher, Raemi Evans, and love when she sends a message back with her approval. The beautiful thing was that, not only did you see them in the classroom, my teachers lived in my neighborhood, went to my church and were part of the community I lived in. I like my sisters with class, elegance and sophistication. I gravitate to the ones who can adapt to any environment and match my wit and intellect. But I need my sisters to have a little edge and be bilingual. They have to speak the king’s English Monday through Friday, but on weekends or when the situation calls for it break out that second language the streets recognize. Sometimes, it’s just so exhausting being in the skin I’m in. So, I need a woman in my life who can hear me when I’m quiet and understand why I’m in pain when I don’t articulate it. 

A sister told me that a strong Black woman doesn’t allow a tear to stain her face, but it’s been a rough few weeks for them. So, I would understand if it did. New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the 1619 Project, was denied tenure at her alma mater UNC-Chapel Hill, because a white major donor got caught up in his racial insecurities and feelings. For over a month, this accomplished sister was treated so poorly as protests erupted and the school’s reputation took a huge hit. They eventually did the right thing and awarded her tenure, but she showed them she had options, told them no thanks and went home to Howard University.

Skin folk turned on one of their own in the wake of the Cosby jail release debacle. They gave credence to the metaphorical adage of how some animals eat their young. Immediately after his release, Cosby Show mom and Dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts Phylicia Rashad sent out an emotional tweet in support of Bill Cosby. Howard University students put down their books, strapped on their Black Panther claws, tore into her and demanded she resign or be fired. As the rumblings grew stronger, Rashad blinked instead of standing strong, and offered her “most sincere apology.” Insert eye roll here.

PBS sought to show that this country should belong to everyone by including actress, singer and former Miss America Vanessa Williams to the Capitol Fourth Celebration lineup. In a demonstration of inclusivity, she was slated to sing the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Heads exploded and a large segment of white America lost their minds, tweeting messages condemning the song’s inclusion. One comment said, “I view this as divisive and creating a culture only caring about skin color.” The commenter doesn’t understand that a person’s blood can bleed red, white and blue while also flowing with red, black and green. Another angry tweet said, “This is ridiculous. There is no Black America. There is no ‘Black National Anthem’ as there is not a Black nation!”

Therein lies the problem with America. When you fail to recognize multiculturalism exists and you try to force everyone into one category, you create hate on one side, distrust on the other and division down the middle.

The racism word was thrown around with track and field sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson after she tested positive for marijuana leading up to the 2021 Summer Olympics. She was banned from competing in the 100 meter event, where she was the favored to win gold, and left off the relay team. Her situation was compared to legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, who was banned from competition for three months for testing positive back in 2009. People questioned why he was allowed to compete, but the sister wasn’t. Phelps’ suspension came six months after the 2008 Olympics, but Richardson’s takes effect less than a month before the start of the games. I believe in calling out racism when it’s real and relevant, but not as a get-out-of-jail-free card when we engage in actions and behaviors we know are wrong. 

Black women need more support and respect. And with that, my sermon for the day is done. Peace with two fingers.

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