Thursday, November 29, 2007

Like the rest of us, Taylor was a victim

On the last night of his life, NFL star Sean Taylor settled in for a night of sleep in his suburban Miami home with his longtime girlfriend and his 18-month-old daughter.

Does that sound like someone who had it coming? Does that seem like a particularly wild night for a so-called thug? I would imagine not, because nearly all of us do the same thing, with some slight variations.

None of us are promised anything, even something as simple as taking another unaided breath in the morning.

It seems that some of us have forgotten that. I'll link to this column by's Jason Whitlock as proof. I'm only picking on J-Dub this time because his piece generated the most conversation in our newsroom Thursday.

Now don't get me wrong: I have lots of respect for Whitlock, a second-wave pioneer in sports journalism and one of the most provocative media voices in the nation today. If, at the end of my career, I had a tenth of his juice in the news industry, I'd be certifiably big-headed (some folks may already believe this).

But to use Taylor's death as an example of some sort of epidemic, the so-called "black-on-black crime" problem, is another example of shallow analysis, anti-intellectualism and beating the same old drum.

The simple fact is that people usually commit crimes against the people closest to them and for a number of socioeconomic reasons too complicated to get into here, many neighborhoods wind up racially segregated. So, black people often kill black people in the way that white people often kill white people and brown people often kill brown people - but when has anyone ever heard the term "white-on-white crime"?

I would never minimize the problem of crime and its terrible effects on mostly poor and brown folks, but that's got little to nothing to do with why Taylor is dead today.

Another tired tactic is blaming hip-hop for many of the ills of society. Whitlock refers to this mythical "Black KKK," demonizing an entire, diverse and pioneering culture for yet another senseless death. It's a pretty large leap to connect those sort of dots - what does Talib Kweli or Wordsworth or Kanye have to do with a murder that Miami-Dade police have thus far considered to be a random tragedy? If Whitlock doesn't have rap music on his iPod, that's his prerogative. I get it, he doesn't like hip hop. But don't lie to folks by telling them Soulja Boy had something to do with Taylor's death when, as far as I know, Tony Soprano gets off the hook.

In the end, we're all vulnerable, weak, exposed human beings. Taylor indeed had a few rodeos with the legal system in the past but when he settled in for a night of sleep with his family Sunday night, he was like the rest of us. A potential victim.

And music has nothing to do with that.


Greg Pearson said...

My buddies and I discussed the same article via email. I might agree with POINTS of his argument, but I just dont see how Whitlock gets from one conclusion to the next. I too was a bit baffled by the reference to hip hop. But, I suppose hip hop has as much to do with Taylor's death as spinning an Ozzy record backwards makes people do the devil's work.

Anonymous said...

Havent we already tried blaming music and TV for events like school shootings?

Melissa Airhart said...

It's good to see you got in another post!! :P