Update: Michael Wilbon, another African-American sportswriter, comments on Dying Young, Black.
Sean Taylor played football-very well. He was a star at the University of Miami, and was in his 4th year as a key defensive player for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. He had a girlfriend and an 18-month-old baby girl.
Note that paragraph is in the past tense. Sean Taylor was shot in a burglary at his Miami home last weekend. The bullet hit his femoral artery and he died within a couple of days.
I think it is always a shock when a young, rich, popular, fit, attractive, talented and seemingly together person dies. As a society, we worship all those things-and even more when they are in combination. So, there have been the requisite statements from somber teammates, analysis from sportswriters, and coverage from entertainment shows. There have also been speculations about the connections to Taylor’s less-than-wholesome childhood friends, the violence of the culture, gun control, the irony of his father’s being a police chief, etc., etc.
But I was dumbfounded by this column from sportswriter Jason Whitlock. He identifies Taylor’s death as the latest example of black on black crime. Whitlock, who is also black, makes this provocative statement:
“The Black KKK claimed another victim, a high-profile professional football player with a checkered past this time….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…Let’s cut through the bull… 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.”
Whitlock goes on to analyze the reasons for this development. He uses the same sort of language that Bill Cosby has been using that is raising hackles in the African-American community all across the nation.
Now, I have limited experience with urban racial issues. Our church has just the beginnings of becoming a truly ethnically diverse community of faith. But here’s what I wonder. What is, or should be, our response to these sorts of issues? Surely this should not be reserved for majority African-American churches. If it affects our people and their families, it must concern us. Can people of other races get involved in this discussion without being seen as racist? What is the connection between community ministry and gospel-centered reconciliation on this level?
I’ve got no answers, just questions. But I’d be really interested to hear what any African-American brothers or sisters have to say in response to Mr. Whitlock’s “aggressive speculation.” There are a whole bunch of Sean Taylors a few blocks from us that wait on some answer.