Kenneth L. Hardin: Where’s the passion for political engagement?

Published 10:21 am Sunday, December 26, 2021

By Kenneth L. Hardin

I’m not from this planet. More than likely, I’m an alien sent here to observe this species and one day I’ll get the signal to return to my home planet.

Why do I feel this way? I don’t think like most people on this third planet from the sun. I could travel the 3,959-mile radius of this planet and wouldn’t find anyone else who thinks like I do.

I was disheartened after the last local elections in this sleepy city when it appeared skinfolk took an extended slumber when it came to engaging in their civic duty. Black and brown people here make up a strong majority, but every two and four years fail to show up to fill in the bubbles. I then listen to two and four years of how the white man has his foot on the neck of the Black community disallowing and impeding any progress.

It ain’t his boot that’s suppressing air flow. It’s the apathy and laziness of skinfolk who fail to see they can actually control the direction of their lives. After every Sunday slate of pro football, I read endless social media trash talk about everyone’s team who won or lost. It carries over into Monday morning with everyone co-opting the “we” term as if they strapped on a helmet and donned football pads to help in the win. Some of the back and forth can get heated as people will defend their teams as if they actually have a financial stake or a locker in the locker room.

I used to be a diehard football fan, but when I became a full-fledged adult and was forced to address the realities of life as a Black man, football became less important for me. It blows me away that people can get so emotional about a team whose owner doesn’t even know their name, but can’t muster a minimal amount of concern for something that impacts their lives directly. 

I get criticized heavily as I’ve been told I focus too much on race, equity and fairness for Black people. That makes no sense to me. 

Even Black people have said they wish I wouldn’t be so hard on racists. With the condition of our communities, the lack of humanity we receive, being denied our basic civil rights under the Constitution, being killed with impunity by the police, no resources being poured into our communities, finding little justice in the (in)justice system and so many more indignities, why aren’t more Black folks thinking like me? I’m different and just a visitor here, remember?  

I’ve found in in this country you’re not allowed to be who you are if it makes racists and bigots uncomfortable. I’ve been told many times I need to learn my place. I recognize my unapologetic approach and willingness to challenge long-held racist beliefs and practices make people nervous. I tell folks they will not silence me simply because my words, actions and demands for humanity conflict with their warped sense of morality. I want them to understand that I have just as much right to exist and live a life free of hate, harm and denial as they do. They need to understand their right to hate does not exceed my right to live free and harmoniously.

It’s sad we even have to ask for longevity in life by pleading for a Black life to matter. If your Bible proclaims we’re all God’s children and your Constitution reads we’re all equal, then why isn’t it practiced or I don’t see it? 

The late political philosopher, Franz Fanon, whose work and studies in critical theory have become very influential, captured the fear, “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they’re presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it’s so important to protect the core belief, they’ll rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

I’m not part-time Black or colored when it’s convenient. When police murder an unarmed Black man, we come out and try to prove our blackness for TV cameras with faux outrage, temporary anger and a movement filled with marches and chants that expire faster than 2% milk. That situational level of blackness is not where I live. Whether anyone else thinks like me or agrees with my approach, I’ll never apologize for my cultural pride, my Black thoughts, loyalty, motives, my skin or the manner in which I fight for equity and fairness.  

I’ll just wait here alone for my ride back to my planet.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a former city councilman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.