Kenneth L. Hardin: We protested a statue, now do it for gun violence

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2022

Since we’ve managed to have the Fame statue relocated, had a lynching remembrance sign erected and prayed at the wrong centuries old lynching tree, when are we going to devote the same energy to reducing or eliminating the gun violence so pervasive in the Black community?

We tend to only travel down a one-way road when it comes to addressing and rectifying societal ills. We have to be just as concerned about nefarious behavior when it’s perpetrated by the Brotherman just as it is when it’s by the Otherman. As an equal opportunity offender, I want to expose when White ain’t right and when Black is being slack.

This gun violence has no color association, and to attribute a melanin content level is just asinine, dangerous, and racially divisive. That didn’t stop a fellow Council member from calling me one afternoon to engage in that level of stupidity when I sat perched in the high back chair. She said to me, “Kenny, with all the gun violence and murders happening in the Black community, do y’all not care about gun violence?” I tried to meet her level of idiocy with a similar imbecilic retort, “Well, with all the meth and pedophilia in the white community, do y’all not care?”

Therein lies one of the primary reasons this scourge continues to escalate. When you assign one color, culture, or community to gun violence instead of viewing it as an overall societal problem, regardless of where it occurs most often, then progress will never be recognized.

Too often in this city, gun violence is deemed a Black problem. It’s as if that somehow absolves from responsibility those who don’t look like the ones they’re casting aspersions against. It’s not until it touches the fringes of their world that it suddenly becomes a crisis. I’ve been preaching loudly and consistently about the proliferation of gang and gun violence since the early 1990s. You would’ve thought the way the mayor and others responded after the Catawba College basketball tournament shooting it was the first bullet ever fired in this city. I fielded numerous calls from upset people of color who shared how they wished they would’ve received that level of response and concern after the many decades of pleading for intervention in their neighborhoods.

Back in the mid ’90s, I led the first community conversation program between the city and the West End. The focus was on gangs, gun violence, drugs and dilapidated housing. Fast forward nearly 30 years and several iterations of the same pointless conversations, now held every two years, and we’re still focusing on the same issues. It’s all smoke and mirrors and distractions to fool residents into thinking there’s a plan when there’s none. What I take exception to is how we’ll invest resources into building a multimillion-dollar park downtown, make upgrades to the City Lake park, institute a drinking-walk along district downtown and throw money into failed ceasefire programs, but can’t seem to find money to abate the gang and gun violence problem. Spare me the worn-out rationalization that it isn’t unique to only our city because it happens everywhere. Well, I don’t live everywhere. I live here and only care about finding solutions to the problems where I pay property taxes.

As I verbally stride down this path and state the need for the same increased cultural accountability we do for racism, I won’t be asked to make the potato salad for the next cookout. Black folks have to step up, start speaking out more forcefully and take the lead. Cute yard signs asking people to stop shooting works about as effectively as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No Campaign” did. Skinfolk have to open up our eyes, unclasp our hands, get up off our knees, and stop asking a deity to fix this issue in our community.

With the number of Black churches in an area the size of the West End, it begs the question: is the church only ministering to those inside who pay the weekly attendance fees?

Instead of Civil Rights organizations seeking notoriety for winning awards for a failed campaign, try knocking on doors to encourage people to vote or try implementing job training, life skills and economic improvement programs. We have too many divided loyalties and culture hustler leaders more concerned with making history than a difference.

The same way we march and chant “no justice, no peace” when an unarmed Black man is gunned down by a cop, we need to shout it to our own every time a bullet needlessly shatters the innocence of our community.

Fame no longer stands, but gun violence remains. That statue never jumped down and fired one bullet, but we made sure our voices were heard. Let’s do the same thing with gun violence.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin can be reached at