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Sean Taylor: Making sense of a senseless death

Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor’s body wasn’t even cold, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, when pundits started blaming him for his own murder. The 24-year-old star safety for the Washington Redskins was gunned down in his Miami home last week, during a botched burglary attempt. Immediately, the media started speculating that Taylor—who, after all, was a “headstrong and rebellious” young black man—must have been killed in some act of revenge or greed by lowlifes he’d met on the “mean streets.” One of my colleagues called his murder sad, “but hardly surprising.” Taylor, it turns out, was killed defending his fiancé and their 18-month-old daughter
from robbers he never knew. The four men arrested a few days after the shooting, police say, picked Taylor’s house because a football star lived there, and they assumed nobody was home. But by then, said Elizabeth Merrill in ESPN.com, many pundits had already declared Taylor’s death “a cautionary tale of a thug life spiraling to a violent end.”

“No disrespect to Taylor,” said Jason Whitlock in FoxSports.com, “but he controlled the way he would be remembered by the way he lived.” As football fans were well aware, in 2005 Taylor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors after pulling out a gun during a fight. As a player, he was notorious for his vicious hits; once, he became so enraged on the field he spit in the face of an opponent. Many of my fellow African-Americans believe the media was “disrespecting” Taylor by reporting on a murder victim’s past problems. But instead of whining about “white folks’ insensitivity,” we should be asking why yet another black man has died at the hands of other black men.

Such murders are now so commonplace, said Leonard Pitts Jr. in The Miami Herald, that the media usually ignores them. We only know that Taylor’s life has been extinguished—leaving his girlfriend and child to mourn—simply because he was a pro football player. Half of all murder victims are black, even though we make up just 12 percent of the population. Of the 7,421 African-Americans murdered last year, 40 percent were Taylor’s age or younger. And 92 percent of murdered blacks were killed by other blacks. “We die shot in the head and shot in the back and shot in the chest and shot in the gut.” And each time, those of us left behind die a little bit, too—“in the soul, at the carnage our communities have become.”

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