Kenneth L. Hardin: Black men deserve to grow old

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 5, 2023

I didn’t join the nation last week sitting in front of the TV awaiting the release of the body cam footage of the unarmed Black man brutally assaulted by the Memphis police. The vicious attack by this pack of wild animals in blue resulted in another Black life having little value, and being extinguished far too soon. Skinfolk’s ongoing pain with murderous men and women behind the badge shouldn’t be prime time TV entertainment.

The public had a right to know and I’m for full transparency, but this seemed to be more of a viewing event shamelessly and endlessly promoted all week for TV ratings.

Black men dying under questionable circumstances with the police has been going on for centuries. I’ve seen this prime-time reality TV show way too many times for my comfort. Remember Rodney “can’t we all just get along” King back in 1991? Like every Black parent, I didn’t want it to seep into my consciousness enough to worry about art imitating life with me and my children. I already suffer from PTSD, so I don’t need the trauma of finding a linked fate with seeing a Black man begging for humanity and his life. I’ll forgo that mental and emotional trauma taking up residence down in the deepest recesses of my cognitive soul.

I wore a law enforcement badge for 13 years. There are some good people working in the field but sadly the entire system is broken.

After every incident like this, we’re reminded a few bad apples exist. While this may be true, when it’s so pervasive and has been continual for decades, there’s not just a few tainted crops in the batch. The entire system needs to be overhauled similar to what they did with the airline industry after 9/11 to make it safer.

In the wake of this most current “wash, rinse and repeat” murder in Memphis, I’m reminded of a quote about the good/bad cop theory: “When farmers find a rotten apple, they remove it before it taints the others. What they don’t say is look at how many good apples we have so why focus on the one bad one. Stop making excuses for the bad ones and just remove them.” Comedian Chris Rock said it even better, “Some jobs just can’t have bad apples. When you say in the police force, they have bad apples, that’s not good enough. Like a pilot. you can’t say most of them land, but you have a few bad apples who can’t land.”

Why does this murderous practice continue happening with impunity and why haven’t there been policies, legislation and protocols put in place to end it? Instead of hollow apologies anchored by shallow and empty statements from political leaders about how awful the murders are, actually do something other than show up at the MLK Day events and read a quote.

Part of the problem is Black people’s voices about this problem are often ignored and disrespected. Our newly retired police chief made that abundantly clear to me as a city councilman during a discussion shortly after his arrival, “I’m getting so sick of this Black people don’t trust the police nonsense.” I wonder if the young Black man who was beaten, kicked and brutalized on the video, his family or the darker hued residents in this marginal slice of heaven, that have had to endure watching this for decades, feel the same way the chief callously and insensitively stated? That’s why attendance is low when the city rolls out the insincere community conversations with the police thinking free food soothes the pain of the physical and emotional scars they’ve inflicted.

There’s enough blame candy to go around so everyone’s sweet tooth is satisfied. Black so-called leaders get on TV and make passionate speeches but demand nothing in the way of change. Religious leaders are so quick to take the moral high ground, they talk forgiveness instead of justice. Fake, neo-revolutionary skinfolk throw their fists in the air, march, sing, chant, and scream “no justice no peace” for two weeks and then go back to their self-indulgent lives until the next TV viewing event.

If I’m wrong, we hollered “Never Again” with George Floyd, but I haven’t heard anyone talking about him in a minute. Prominent and influential white people, whose voice could make a difference, fall silent and suddenly go deaf and mute, refusing to speak up or out.

If this was a serial killer taking thousands of lives there would be so much vocal outrage, it would register as a small earthquake on the Richter Scale. These politicians don’t care because the victims don’t have the complexion for the protection

It doesn’t matter that these officers were black. They bled tainted blue that night. If you’re upset over this one murder, re-think your value system.

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