Kenneth L. Hardin: Salisbury, what’s going on?
“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today.”
— Marvin Gaye
By Kenneth L. Hardin
Every time my phone rings and the voice on the other end shares that another murder has occurred in our city in an emotionally exhausted tone that seems devoid of hope, that song plays in my mind. As the voices seem to run together because of the frequency of their calls, I’m amazed the song, written and performed 50 years ago, still has significance today.
Every time there’s a murder, an overdose or a violent crime in this city, my phone rings an ominous tone. The voices of desperation and sadness are almost too much to bear as I listen to those who share pain of a city that no longer resembles one of peace and tranquility or a safe haven.
I was one of those people. I left the community I knew and loved back in 2004 after my then-young children were almost hit by gunfire while playing in the back yard of our home by two rivals in cars. If only these young folks could listen to Marvin Gaye’s lyrics before pulling the trigger or injecting that needle, so much pain and heartache could be avoided, “…We don’t need to escalate. You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.”
This may sound crazy, and most folks will clutch their pearls, recoil in horror and faint at what I opine, but the blame for the nefarious and deadly actions of those perpetrating crimes is not theirs alone. I refuse to excuse anyone who chooses to walk up to the line of committing a crime and take a giant leap over into the abyss. But when you have a city that seems more concerned with aesthetics, not ensuring resources are spread evenly, doing little to nothing to bridge economic and racial gaps and criticizing and canceling anyone who dares to speak up or out on the realities this city is mired in, well, your hands have dirt on them too. Who gave you the moral high ground and designated you as the final arbiter of truth? “Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong. Oh, but who are they to judge us …”
It makes no sense to me to build a huge park in the heart of the city, but you can travel 2 miles and it looks like a third-world country absent of aid and assistance.
As an elected official, I was told within earshot of a witness in the halls of our local democracy by another council member, “I don’t know why you care so much about the West End. You live in a nice neighborhood.”
In a conversation with another council member, I was asked, “Kenny, with all the shootings and murders, do Black people on the West End not care?”
Implicit in both of these tone deaf and racist-tinged statements, they clearly viewed crime in the Black community as not their problem. If the crime was suddenly moving to more affluent addresses and communities, these issues would be quickly resolved, and this would be the utopia we pretend it to be.
My hand is slapped every time I talk about my skin folk’s faults and deficiencies. I stopped getting invited to cookouts and Black functions as a result, but I decided I had enough friends. So, I was good when the trash emptied itself. Another problem I see is a message I received from a friends in my wide professional network, “The bank is the center of the white community and the church is the center of the Black community. We know scripture better than we do interest rates and hedge funds, and then wonder why we can’t progress.”
We can’t pray our situation away or sit back and wait on divine intervention to lift us up out of the misery we’re in. We need to stop singing and shouting hallelujah and start voting, demanding equal access to resources, acquiring land, protecting our assets, building generational wealth and closing the racial wealth gap.
Marching is great for exercise, but slogans and chants have proven to do little. Laws and policy change work better. How many more times do we scream and exhort, “No justice, no peace,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” while saying each murder is a wake-up call? It’s all so exhausting and I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So, Salisbury, what’s going on? “Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way to bring some understanding here today.”
Hardin is a writer living in Salisbury, a former city councilman and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.