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August 3, 2021

Kenneth L. Hardin: Time to craft an actual plan to solve gun violence

By Kenneth L. Hardin

I went to bed one night last month thinking about the unsolved shooting death of 7-year-old A’yanna Allen and woke up to the disturbing news of an 8-year-old shot and killed in Statesville. 

It seems like shootings are the norm in this city. So, the “Historic” moniker should be replaced with that deadly description.

A few years ago, well after midnight, I was walking the streets of this wealthy, historic, crime-ridden and gang-infested city in areas where most other people look down upon and speak of in hushed tones but would actually never visit. I frequently interacted with the night owls much to the dismay of cowards who only talk about them and do nothing to help. As an elected official, a complaint was even lodged against me about my interacting with gang members. 

One night, I was talking with those who find solace in the streets about making alternative life choices when a sudden burst of gunfire broke out close to me. The funny thing is I didn’t feel fear; I felt outrage.  

I’m way past weary of all the shootings in this city and elsewhere, but being weary is not enough. We have to be truly tired. We have to get tired like civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, who said she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. We have to be emotionally drained like “Green Mile” movie character John Coffey who said, “I’m tired boss … mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day.” Sadly, we’re so situational and temporarily angry; we easily compartmentalize our frustration and ignore it until the next episode. 

We should be so far past wake-up calls at this point that a social activism alarm clock is no longer needed.  The responses lately to gun violence feel so manufactured, and a necessary level of genuine concern seems to be missing. It’s easy to deny the realities of a societal ill when it doesn’t impact you personally.

I recall being told by a pastor that I needed to stop worrying so much about what was going on in this life and focus more on getting to heaven. If you’re under the constant fear of being a victim of gun violence, you’re already living in hell. 

You create a divide when you start a sentence off with “them,” “they” or “those people over there.” Crime and violence don’t happen in a vacuum. So, when you wag a judgmental finger and assign a color, ethnic or cultural designation to the problem, you create unnecessary division and irreparable harm to relationships. Our so-called leaders don’t take this continual violence seriously enough, and aren’t putting in the needed work to diminish it. 

Photo ops and cute names for pointless programs that don’t actually resonate with the people are useless. There’s an absence of reality and a strategic plan to address this issue; if there is one, the people impacted by gun violence didn’t get copied on the memo. The plan has to include both enforcement and prevention efforts as well as an infusion of financial resources into the community. We can’t keep putting WD-40 on a squeaky door, and ignoring that it’s actually broken. It may be fine to temporarily shove a piece of wood under a wobbly table, but eventually you’re going to have to fix the table. Just as we can’t arrest our way to progress, we can’t pray it away or simply throw money at it and turn our heads either. We have to get up off our knees, get down in the trenches and fight this problem. 

I’ve cautioned the Black community before that a rescue team is not on the way to help stop this gun violence. The people in economically challenged and depressed communities need to stop looking outside the community for solutions that will never come. Having community meetings and putting sticky notes on a wall isn’t the answer people in these areas need.  If you only have a financial interest and not an emotional investment in these communities, you’re the wrong person to be interacting with the distressed communities. Trust needs familiarity.

Some white politicians only come around every two or four years for a photo op, make a speech at a Black church, buy a chicken dinner and profess their love for Dr. King’s Dream on MLK day, but they ignore the plight of the community at all other times. Those communities need more and better. They need resources and real help from people who are truly invested, Black or white.

Moving forward without a definitive plan to address this gun violence is nothing more than wishing and hoping, and I’m tired of doing both. 

Kenneth L. Hardin is a writer living in Salisbury, a former City Council member and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.  He can be reached at hardingroupllc.com. 

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