Kenneth Harding, the San Francisco Police and the Media
July 27, 2011
by MICHAEL CALDERÓN-ZAKS
I should mention my connection to both San Francisco (where I was born, raised, and reside) and Seattle (where I received a Bachelors degree), where 19-year old Kenneth Harding is from and had an exaggerated criminal past. I say exaggerated because even his one conviction was minor compared to the frenzy about him getting his.
Generally, what happened to Harding happens in colonized spaces to colonized subjects, from Hunter’s Point to Baghdad. The victims are people of color. Five centuries of colonially-constructed rationales have served the purpose of minimizing the value of racialized subjects. White supremacist narratives were constructed out of these European conquests of darker peoples and have outlived Jim Crow and formal colonialism. The benefit of the doubt goes to the white occupiers, or to those doing their dirty work and being vouched for, whether the SFPD or the US military. The white supremacist authority in both cases only needs to make a haphazard justification for its shoot-first and ask-questions-later approach. Being shot in the back for being black or brown will be justified by a complicit corporate press, and Harding’s exaggerated criminal past is the latest example.
In the immediate frenzy, the SFPD manipulated the vagaries of the incident. They claimed that he shot at them, but witnesses said that the bullets only went in one direction. If one looks at the first video taken, you can see him laying in his own blood, with no crowd around him except for the police aiming their guns at him while they could’ve attempted to save him but didn’t bother. The next video shows a crowd on the opposite side of Harding’s soon-to-be corpse, and a gun behind them. Why didn’t the officers see the gun, which surfaced at least 20 feet ahead of Harding, before a crowd could impede their vision of it? Why also did they not expand the crime scene to include the area where a gun was picked up off the ground? The disconnect between Harding and that gun lead many to believe that it was planted. However, no such possibility of a planted weapon exists in the mainstream media, which, at best merely refuses to challenge dominant paradigms or narratives, and at worst, continues to invest in stereotypical narratives that rationalize the status quo benefitting a white power structure. Continue reading