Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Words of Jason Whitlock: Black Culture and America

As the week has moved forth, the topic on every sports fan mind in the Washington region has been on the death of Sean Taylor. Almost every sporting website, blog, talk radio show and newspaper has looked into the lifestyle, family, and everything else can you think of about the fallen safety.

While I was on break at work, I read Jason Whitlock's provocative article titled "Taylor's Death A Grim Reminder For Us All", that looks how the pervasive images of black America and crime may have played a role into the death of Sean Taylor.

As much as we try to deny the issue of race in the death of Mr. Taylor - well, sadly it is an issue, whether we want to face the issue head on or not.

What I am trying to come to grips with as a black male is, "how close to this so-called world that Sean Taylor comes from correlates with mine & it is fair to swath everyone with the same brush?"

Maybe it is a coincidence that Mr. Taylor tragically lost his life, or maybe it isn't?

I'm going to post a few quotes that caught my eye:

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.'

I'd love to say that I disagree with him, but I don't. Although I live in the Maryland suburbs and I'd like to think I have very little connection to that inner city world, that numbers do not lie.

Statistically, in most major cities, African-Americans are victims of other African-Americans. Why? The glorification of rap music? 50 Cent? Movies? The lure of money?

'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.'

This is more I agree with him about? Again, why?

And one final block of sentences:

'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 bitch," nothing will change.'

While I respect Mr. Whitlock's quest to delve straight into the problem and come up with certain thoughts as to why the way things are in the black community, his thoughts are just way too simplistic.

I don't see this as only black America's problem, this is America's problem.

I was an American History major in college and studied it in graduate school, and a lot of my work centered around Civil Rights. Well, it's only been about 50 years since African-Americans have had full rights on paper (that's even if some agree with me), and right now, there are just as many African-American men in jail as there are in institutions of higher education.

Why is it that way? While it may be easy to blame rap music, movies, TV, to point the blame there is way too easy.

What I do I blame? The lack of parenting, the poor social conditions that many grow up in, socioeconomics, and the violence that seems to exist in a lot of communities Whitlock alludes to.

The problem is so complicated and so deep that a columnist with all due respect to Mr. Whitlock and Mr. Wilbon can wrap around it in a thousand word column.

Sociologists, education experts, economists, historians, students, and government officials have been for decades trying to figure out how to get black America on equal footing with the 'general' culture.

I'm going to put the blame on history and circumstance; however, even that is too simplistic. I'd be spending the next week or more trying to write an essay on this, but I don't have the time to through proofread.

Now, let's go back to Sean Taylor. While all the talking heads in the media have said he's a product of "black culture" and whatever else they can come up with; alas, he sounds like came from a more 'typical' background. Remember, Sean Taylor went to a private school growing up. his father was a police chief, and from all accounts seemed like a "good kid".

Maybe his friends got him in a little trouble, or maybe he fell into some bad influences in college, or maybe he did some stupid things, but he sounded more like a knucklehead at times than a so-called "thug" as many like to portray him as.

In the end, I don't think it's fair to dissect his life and then come to a standard conclusion as to why the way things are. A person's life is more like an elaborate painting, than a simple three paragraph obituary -- there are so many layers to a person that some columnist can't just pack it all into a piece.

Right now, based on the facts I have seen, it's a little asinine to lump his life with those who are criminals, or more insulting lump into a group, or culture such as black America which has contributed so much good to the fabric of America.

I could go on and on, but I'm going to stop here.

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