Kenneth L. Hardin: Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

In the wake of another shooting last week on the West End, seniors were again diving to the floor for safety, and younger folks were lighting up social media and my phone with descriptions of flying bullets and resulting property damage.

As I sat listening to and reading the terrified responses, I shook my head  in disgust and derision wondering when the cease fire operation would begin and how long it would take for the cure for this violence to take effect. I’m not optimistic either will be effective because, while they look good on paper, and make people who aren’t impacted feel good about themselves without getting involved, it doesn’t drill down to those who are actually committing the crimes.

If you put cologne on without taking a bath, you will still stink.

I don’t subscribe to the “Do as I say and not as I do” mindset. It’s lazy, uninspired and a bit arrogant, but above all, dangerous. I get so tired of hearing so-called leaders talking out of both sides of their mouths by making speeches filled with promises of uplifting marginalized people and affected communities all to get elected, but then do nothing in the way of helping either progress afterwards.

In this little slice of marginal heaven, where I take my small dog out for daily walks with a registered weapon on my hip, this expenditure of pointless noxious verbal emissions make my teeth itch. We have Black organizational and community leaders, political representatives and religious prognosticators of color who need to be put on the back of milk cartons or the front label of bottles of wine so we can find them in times of crisis. Their MIA status has done great harm to the Black community. Instead of accountability, they double down and revel in the acknowledgment from those who are playing them masterfully like a finely tuned Bösendorfer piano.

I had a confused soul, who looks like me, say we need to pray for change and healing with the gun violence problem. No, you need to get up off your knees, stand up straight, open your eyes and face this issue head on at its roots. The onus can’t be on the city alone to remedy this gun violence issue. Yes, power concedes nothing without a demand but there has to be a level of accountability within the Black community that disallows this degradation to continue occurring from our own hands.

I wanted to gauge impressions from other Black professionals about how our cultural ship’s sails were blowing in this city’s winds. So I convened and moderated a Zoom call with several other professional skinfolk representing ages from the 40s to the 70s. This eclectic mix of knowledgeable melanin heavy folks was comprised of military retirees and veterans, the federal government, law enforcement, higher education, the entertainment industry, nursing executive leadership, law, small business and nonprofit ownership, and human resources executive management.

The first statement from a 70-year-old female college professor set the tone: “Although we’ve stood on the shoulders of many others to be uplifted, so many of our own people stand on our shoulders to keep us pushed down, and it’s been so disillusioning for me. We need to get that worked out first before we can worry about anyone on the outside of our community.”

As I surveyed the blocks on my screen, reminiscent of the Brady Bunch TV show opening, I could see every participant shaking their heads in agreement. From the visceral reactions as she continued sharing her journey through life’s inequity madness, it was evident the other participants had similar experiences.

I asked how many had mentors, trainers or anyone who looked like them that helped guide their professional careers? Crickets. I then asked the group to share the number of people who looked like them as they sat in board room meetings in their respective fields. Only two hands went up

As the productive two-hour discussion continued to build with ample participation, deep reflections and vocal emotion from others who shared similar challenges they had faced, I said, “We have the opportunity to be what we didn’t have growing up personally and/or professionally.” I wanted them to understand that not only do we have an obligation and responsibility to be mentors and guides to those coming behind us, we also have the awesome opportunity to succeed where so many other confused and misguided skinfolks have failed. The proof is in the continuous gunfire. We can rewrite the narrative and change the trajectory with this gun violence. The professional pie is big enough for everyone to have a slice. Simply close one side of your two mouths, stop these pointless failed programs and ensure your actions always meet your words.

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