Kenneth L. Hardin: Progress, satisfaction don’t have to make the news

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 8, 2023

When people approach me with nonsense, my third eye is not blind, nor does it suffer from cataracts.  In dealings with culture hustlers and purveyors of ill-intent, I repeat the familiar refrain expressed by the man who suffers from significant vision impairment wearing dark glasses and swinging a red tipped cane, “I can see said the blind man.”

My occipital and temporal lobes are a fierce tandem in creating the BS meter I’ve developed and perfected as an expert in interpersonal communications. I possess the unique ability to discern and interpret intentions simply by paying attention to voice patterns and intonation levels, facial expressions, and body positioning. There are few who can sway or impress me. I find enjoyment when those who joyfully poured salt on my name in an attempt to impugn my character find it necessary to circle back around seeking my assistance when the skeletons in their closet get too full and their door busts wide open for the world to see their misdeeds.

I can count back two Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendents ago to give you better insight. The school system innocently came up with what amounted to throwing gang signs to promote a new education initiative. With the involvement of a Charlotte ABC news affiliate, I publicly called out this well intentioned yet contradictory and hypocritical hand gesture practice.  My position was that if you’re going to suspend students for gang affiliated nonsense, then it should be extended to the unintentional yet misguided educators as well.

In the aftermath, after it drew wide public scorn, I was appreciated as much as I would’ve been invited to a sleepover at a white nationalist’s slumber party. I was summoned to the former Big House on Ellis Street to meet with the new boss lady in the big chair and her underling that looked like me but lacked the same level of consciousness.

With a local Civil Rights era icon in tow, we met with this duo, and I recall the meeting vividly. I’ll provide the Cliff Notes version to say I was told with just enough stank and nice-tiness, “I have no problem with you going to the media, but you should’ve come to me first.”

 I matched her stank level with my own and reminded my new associate that I was neither employed nor owned by her, so I was under no obligation to check with her on my activities.

The atmosphere took on a new level of positivity after that exchange and we ended up having a great conversation and a positive working relationship that lasted years afterwards. I appreciated being able to reach out to her with sensitive community concerns brought to my attention that could’ve escalated and appreciated the mutual respect we offered and shared.

What was disappointing to hear was that after that initial meeting, the undercover brother, who sat in the room smiling and silent, took the opportunity to besmirch my character after I left. He told her to be careful associating with me because I was trouble. Interestingly, he and I had never once been introduced nor had a single conversation prior.

Several months later, when he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and his employment was terminated, my phone rang, but I allowed it to go to voicemail. On the recorded message was this same translucent skinfolk character now full of rage and consciousness asking for my assistance. I’m not sure if everyone’s phone has a delete button option but mine does.

I took you down that long winded divergent path for a point. I’ve heard that “I wish you had called me first” refrain so many times it almost sickens me.  My response is “I wish you had cared more and respected the person you offended so that I wouldn’t even need to call you or anyone else.”

Don’t allow your emotional response to being challenged on your misaligned authority create an unnecessary escalation of a situation that can be resolved with time, courtesy, compassion and understanding.  Instead of reacting to an incident and offering a poorly crafted, insincere, disingenuous response, find humanity and concern proactively beforehand. Stop listening to people who will only tell you what you want to hear about a sensitive issue and not the truth.

There are people who care little about getting a key to the city or seeing how far they can crawl up inside of you.  We can then forgo all these pointless and ridiculous community conversations every two years, fake listening to what people need.

I’m OK being labeled the boogeyman if it means respect for all people.  I’ve decided to unpack my suitcase and stay a while, continuing to be that voice people need. Thank you to those who respond when I call. To all others, see you on the news.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.