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Wilbon on Taylor: Dying Young, Black

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by weslinder, Nov 28, 2007.

  1. weslinder

    weslinder Contributing Member

    Jun 27, 2006
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    I could have posted this in the Sean Taylor thread, but I think it deserves its own thread. And it's about race, so I put it in D&D, not really to stir up debate. Still, everyone should read this article.


    Dying Young, Black

    By Michael Wilbon
    Wednesday, November 28, 2007; Page E01

    If you're hoping to read about the on-field exploits of Sean Taylor, or a retrospective of his time with the Washington Redskins, it would probably be better if you cast your eyes to a piece elsewhere in this newspaper.

    Seriously, you should stop right here.

    Because we're going to have a different conversation in this space -- about the violent and senseless nature of the act that took his life, about trying to change course when those around you might not embrace such a change, about dying young and black in America, about getting the hell out of Dodge if at all possible.

    I wasn't surprised in the least when I heard the news Monday morning that Sean Taylor had been shot in his home by an intruder. Angry? Yes. Surprised? Not even a little. It was only in June 2006 that Taylor, originally charged with a felony, pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges after brandishing a gun during a battle over who took his all-terrain vehicles in Florida. After that, an angry crew pulled up on Taylor and his boys and pumped at least 15 bullets into his sport-utility vehicle. So why would anybody be surprised? Had it been Shawn Springs, I would have been stunned. But not Sean Taylor.

    It wasn't long after avoiding jail time and holding on to his football career that Taylor essentially said, "That's it, I'm out," to the world of glamorized violence he seemed comfortable negotiating earlier. Anybody you talk to, from Coach Joe Gibbs to Jeremy Shockey, his college teammate, will cite chapter and verse as to how Taylor was changing his life in obvious ways every day. He had a daughter he took everywhere. Gibbs said he attended team chapel services regularly. Everybody saw a difference, yet it didn't help him avoid a violent, fatal, tragic end.

    Coincidence? We have no idea, not yet anyway. Could have been a random act, a break-in, something that happens every day in America, something that could happen to any one of us no matter how safe we think our neighborhood is. Could have been just that. But would it surprise me if it was more than that, if there was a distinct reason Taylor was sleeping with a machete under his bed? A machete. Even though his attorney and friend Richard Sharpstein says his instincts tell him "this was not a murder or a hit," would it stun me if Taylor was specifically targeted? Not one bit.

    You see, just because Taylor was changing his life, don't assume the people who pumped 15 bullets into his SUV a couple of years ago were in the process of changing theirs. Maybe it was them, maybe not. Maybe it was somebody else who had a beef with Taylor a year earlier, maybe not. Maybe it was retribution or envy or some volatile combination.

    Here's something we know: People close to Taylor, people he trusted to advise him, told him he'd be better off if he left South Florida, that anybody looking for him could find him in the suburbs of Miami just as easily as they could have found him at the U a few years ago. I'm told that Taylor was told to go north, to forget about Miami. I can understand why he would want to have a spot in or near his home town, but I sure wish he hadn't.

    The issue of separating yourself from a harmful environment is a recurring theme in the life of black men. It has nothing to do with football, or Sean Taylor or even sports. To frame it as a sports issue is as insulting as it is naive. Most of us, perhaps even the great majority of us who grew up in big urban communities, have to make a decision at some point to hang out or get out.

    The kid who becomes a pharmaceutical rep has the same call to make as the lawyer or delivery guy or accountant or sportswriter or football player: Cut off anybody who might do harm, even those who have been friends from the sandbox, or go along to get along.

    Mainstream folks -- and, yes, this is a code word for white folks -- see high-profile athletes dealing with this dilemma and think it's specific to them, while black folks know it's everyday stuff for everybody, for kids with aspirations of all kinds -- even for a middle-class kid with a police-chief father, such as Taylor -- from South Central to Southeast to the South Side. Some do, some don't. Some will, some won't. Some can, some cannot. Often it's gut-wrenching. Usually, it's necessary. For some, it takes a little bit too long.

    A recently retired future Hall of Fame NFL player called me the day Taylor was drafted by the Redskins, essentially recruiting a mentor for Taylor, somebody who knew D.C. well enough to tell Taylor what and who to avoid. The old pro thought Taylor wasn't that far from a pretty safe path but was worried about the trouble that can find a kid here in D.C., and certainly in Miami. The old pro had all the right instincts, didn't he? Taylor was only 24 when he died yesterday morning and from all credible accounts he seemed to be getting it in the last 18 months or so. But it's difficult to outrun the past, even with 4.4 speed in the 40. Running away from the kind of trouble we're talking about is harder than running in quicksand.

    It's senseless and tragic either way, much in the same way Len Bias's death was senseless and tragic, and sparked so much examination, much of it resented. I drove to Redskins Park yesterday morning and left rather quickly. It was way too much like the aftermath of Bias's death. We, the media, were camped out. Teammates walked in, not wanting to say anything, understandably. Some things are eerily similar. Bias was 22. Each had been with his institution, Bias at Maryland and Taylor with the Redskins, for four years. Everywhere you went in D.C. yesterday, Taylor was the conversation. And people of a certain age, from Dulles International Airport to Georgia Avenue, talked about how they were reminded of Bias's death. For many of us it's a defining moment in our lives.

    Of course, there are enormous differences. We were so much more innocent in June 1986, and Bias's death was a complete shock. There was no warning, no hint that he had ever courted danger or that it had ever gone looking for him. And Bias, though unintentionally, harmed himself. Taylor, no matter what he might have been involved in at one time, was a victim in this violent episode, a man in his bedroom minding his own business.

    But what they do share is dying too soon, unnecessarily so, while young and athletic, seemingly on top of the world. Though we're likely to struggle in great frustration to understand the circumstances of how Taylor left so soon, how dare we not put forth an honest if sometimes uncomfortable effort to examine his life in some greater context than football.
  2. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro
    Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2002
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    I hate to be an ass towards sean taylor, and we don't know what happened, but sean taylor obviously looked for trouble. He liked playing the gangster. Its not that hard for these guys to keep their friends and stay out of trouble.

    and wilbon is also very wrong on one other front, this problem is unique to pro football players.
  3. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

    Dec 22, 1999
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    I think a lot of people of all races and backgrounds have to face this at some point in their young lives. Some of my HS buds quit smoking buds, some didn't. Some became lawyers, some still sack groceries and smoke bud. Could even be expectations placed on you by friends and family. Not quite the same as the gangsta life, but enough to pull you down if you let it.
  4. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

    Oct 5, 1999
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    no so Sure
    Isiah Rider anyone . . . . even our on beloved Madd Max

    Also . . I dunno I guess because of his Rocket Past
    Eddie Griffin's death was more tragic and impactful for me

    Rocket River
  5. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro
    Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2002
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    but how long ago were those guys aside from eddie griffin. I know there are alot more numbers in the nfl which makes the pool bigger. but you don't have stories like rae carruth, ray lewis, sean taylor, etc. there was a denver bronco killed last year right after a game remember?

    these nfl guys are violent and they get in violent incidents. pac man? its ridiculous
  6. JayZ750

    JayZ750 Contributing Member

    May 16, 2000
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    I was about to reply something similar. If it's okay to say:

    Mainstream folks -- and, yes, this is a code word for white folks -- see high-profile athletes dealing with this dilemma and think it's specific to them

    you could just as easily say:

    black people think it is an issue specific to their race

    It's not an issue unique to black people. Some of the way it is played out may be different in different neighborhoods, but Wilbon is just talking about a fact of life. Adults have to make decisions, regardless of background. Those decisions can be different for different races, or people of different economic or social backgrounds, but there are always decisions to be made, and how you make those decisions defines who you are as an individual.

    Sean Taylor clearly had a history of making poor decisions. It's the fact that all signs had pointed to a change in that thinking that makes his death that much more sorrowful.
  7. insane man

    insane man Member

    Aug 9, 2003
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    but its an issue about the inner city and urban america which is extremely and disproportionately black.

    its not an issue to someone who grew up in middle class suburbs and those people are more than likely white.
  8. JayZ750

    JayZ750 Contributing Member

    May 16, 2000
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    No, you're wrong. That's what rimrocker and I were alluding, too. There are plenty of kids in suburban America who make wrong choices. I grew up in suburbia....that doesn't mean I don't know people who are now in jail, or struggling with drug addiction, or whatever.

    There are definitely specific cultural aspects based on location or race...but it is not unique to black people.
  9. bigtexxx

    bigtexxx Contributing Member

    Jun 12, 2002
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    Whitlock (a black guy) had an article that I agree with on this topic:

    Column: Sean Taylor was killed by "The Black KKK"



    Taylor's death a grim reminder for us all
    Jason Whitlock
    FOXSports.com, Updated 41 minutes ago

    There's a reason I call them the Black KKK. The pain, the fear and the destruction are all the same.

    Someone who loved Sean Taylor is crying right now. The life they knew has been destroyed, an 18-month-old baby lost her father, and, if you're a black man living in America, you've been reminded once again that your life is in constant jeopardy of violent death.
    The Black KKK claimed another victim, a high-profile professional football player with a checkered past this time.

    No, we don't know for certain the circumstances surrounding Taylor's death. I could very well be proven wrong for engaging in this sort of aggressive speculation. But it's no different than if you saw a fat man fall to the ground clutching his chest. You'd assume a heart attack, and you'd know, no matter the cause, the man needed to lose weight.

    Well, when shots are fired and a black man hits the pavement, there's every statistical reason to believe another black man pulled the trigger. That's not some negative, unfair stereotype. It's a reality we've been living with, tolerating and rationalizing for far too long.

    When the traditional, white KKK lynched, terrorized and intimidated black folks at a slower rate than its modern-day dark-skinned replacement, at least we had the good sense to be outraged and in no mood to contemplate rationalizations or be fooled by distractions.

    Our new millennium strategy is to pray the Black KKK goes away or ignores us. How's that working?

    About as well as the attempt to shift attention away from this uniquely African-American crisis by focusing on an alleged injustice the white media allegedly perpetrated against Sean Taylor.

    Within hours of his death, there was a story circulating that members of the black press were complaining that news outlets were disrespecting Taylor's victimhood by reporting on his troubled past

    No disrespect to Taylor, but he controlled the way he would be remembered by the way he lived. His immature, undisciplined behavior with his employer, his run-ins with law enforcement, which included allegedly threatening a man with a loaded gun, and the fact a vehicle he owned was once sprayed with bullets are all pertinent details when you've been murdered.

    Marcellus Wiley, a former NFL player, made the radio circuit Wednesday, singing the tune that athletes are targets. That was his explanation for the murders of Taylor and Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams and the armed robberies of NBA players Antoine Walker and Eddy Curry.


    Let's cut through the bull(manure) and deal with reality. Black men are targets of black men. Period. Go check the coroner's office and talk with a police detective. These bullets aren't checking W-2s.

    Rather than whine about white folks' insensitivity or reserve a special place of sorrow for rich athletes, we'd be better served mustering the kind of outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees.

    But we don't want to deal with ourselves. We take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people's hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant.

    Our self-hatred has been set to music and reinforced by a pervasive culture that promotes a crab-in-barrel mentality.

    You're damn straight I blame hip hop for playing a role in the genocide of American black men. When your leading causes of death and dysfunction are murder, ignorance and incarceration, there's no reason to give a free pass to a culture that celebrates murder, ignorance and incarceration.

    Of course there are other catalysts, but until we recapture the minds of black youth, convince them that it's not OK to "super man dat ho" and end any and every dispute by "cocking on your *****," nothing will change.

    Does a Soulja Boy want an education?

    HBO did a fascinating documentary on Little Rock Central High School, the Arkansas school that required the National Guard so that nine black kids could attend in the 1950s. Fifty years later, the school is one of the nation's best in terms of funding and educational opportunities. It's 60 percent black and located in a poor black community.

    Watch the documentary and ask yourself why nine poor kids in the '50s risked their lives to get a good education and a thousand poor black kids today ignore the opportunity that is served to them on a platter.

    Blame drugs, blame Ronald Reagan, blame George Bush, blame it on the rain or whatever. There's only one group of people who can change the rotten, anti-education, pro-violence culture our kids have adopted. We have to do it.

    According to reports, Sean Taylor had difficulty breaking free from the unsavory characters he associated with during his youth.

    The "keepin' it real" mantra of hip hop is in direct defiance to evolution. There's always someone ready to tell you you're selling out if you move away from the immature and dangerous activities you used to do, you're selling out if you speak proper English, embrace education, dress like a grown man, do anything mainstream.

    The Black KKK is enforcing the same crippling standards as its parent organization. It wants to keep black men in their place — uneducated, outside the mainstream and six feet deep.

    In all likelihood, the Black Klan and its mentality buried Sean Taylor, and any black man or boy reading this could be next.
  10. Icehouse

    Icehouse Contributing Member

    Jun 23, 2000
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    Yes, hip-hop is to blame for Sean Taylor’s death, even though we have no clue who his killers were. :confused:

    So I guess he doesn't listen to positive rap artists, like Common or Mos Def? I guess hip-hop is the only genre that uses sex and violence to make money? I guess he doesn’t watch too much TV from say, 1980 on….

    Ok Whitlock…we get it…you don’t like hip-hop….
    #10 Icehouse, Nov 29, 2007
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2007
  11. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine
    Supporting Member

    May 15, 2000
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    Let's blame music, tv, and movies for all the murder in the world or let's focus on things that matter a little bit more like family structure, education, economic opportunities, positive role models, etc. What a dope.
  12. MLittle577

    MLittle577 Contributing Member

    Jul 24, 2002
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    No, lets just blame hip-hop, it's much easier that way.

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