Kenneth L. Hardin: Happy I can still rub people the wrong way

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 11, 2022

People either really appreciate my opinions or I rub them so wrong they create personal character assessments without ever talking to me. Either way, I have no desire to try to change perceptions regardless of the position they take about me. I’m fully capable of breathing independently and thriving without the assistance of anyone else’s oxygen.

I managed to rub some Black folks the wrong way after the news broke that WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison in a swap for a convicted Russian arms dealer. While everyone was celebrating her newfound freedom, I took a different approach and was critical of the hoopla surrounding someone who didn’t deserve the acclaim.

I’m happy she was released because although she violated their law, the sentence was politically motivated, overly harsh and the punishment wasn’t equivalent to the crime committed. What people took offense to was my response to analytical statements made by cable TV talking heads like the “bought and paid for” CNN commentator, Van Jones. He said Griner should be mentioned in the same sentence as Angela Davis, and post release, she would be looked upon as an icon for many years to come. Whoa, slow down partner. Griner has done nothing for Black, poor, or marginalized people to be included in the same category as Davis.

Simply being Black, female, gay and imprisoned in a foreign country for possessing illegal drugs doesn’t give you the same rights and privileges bestowed upon people who’ve actually fought and sacrificed. I have more respect for Sisters like Joan Little, Ericka Huggins, Kathleen Cleaver and so many more strong women of color who made strides against odds.

I’ve been rubbing skinfolk wrong for decades now simply because I don’t have a price, my integrity is not for sale and I won’t allow my voice to be muted. Back in the mid ’90s, a group of about 30 Civil Rights era dinosaurs summoned me to the Miller Recreation Center to wag a finger at me and say, “We’re ashamed, embarrassed and appalled at the way you talk to our white city leaders.”

I’m all for giving respect and will compromise if I’m not the only one being asked to. I’ve seen so many Black people in positions of power, authority, and of note act as if they’re on a dating site selling out themselves and their people to the first person who tells them they’re pretty. What these people of disreputable character don’t understand is there’s a difference between being loved, admired, respected and simply tolerated.

I’ll forgo the latter and hold out for a bigger breakfast devoid of misguided political platitudes from those who can’t read a social justice menu. I would rather skip eating at a table where my plate of integrity is filled with a minuscule amount of soul nourishing food cooked by people who haven’t washed their hands, or who refuse to wear a hair net before serving me.

There was another recent national news story that inexplicably garnered little news coverage. It was so overlooked, NBA superstar, Lebron James, had to ask reporters in a postgame press conference why no one was seeking his opinion about it the same way they had asked him about fellow NBA colleague Kyrie Irving and even political questions involving Hillary Clinton. It’s interesting how Lebron was told to “shut up and dribble” when he spoke out on instances of racial discrimination, but got Mississippi mud crickets on this topic

A 1957 photo was recently uncovered that shows then 14-year-old current Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, standing with a group of angry white students blocking the doors, and denying access to six Black students who were enrolled at an Arkansas high school where he lived. Jones tap danced around the issue and offered the absurd and unbelievable explanation that at his young age, he was only there out of curiosity. Yeah, right. So were all the people in this country who went to Sunday after church lynchings with picnic baskets and took smiling photos with the hanging Black bodies.

Jones has done nothing as an NFL owner in the way of hiring or in support of social justice initiatives to disprove he harbors racist feelings and intentions toward Blacks.  There were national Black sports commentators who pulled out their price tags and made themselves available to the highest bidder in defense of Jones.

Many of these controlled mouthpieces, like the annoying Stephen A. Smith, fell back on and pushed the lame explanation that Jones should get a pass because he was 14 years old at the time.

Well, Emmett Till was 14 when he was brutally murdered and George Stinney, Jr. was too when he was put to death in a South Carolina electric chair for a murder he didn’t commit.

Kenneth L. “Kenny” Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.