No Respect For The Deceased?

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: November 29, 2007

Sean Taylor

NEW YORK — Today I saw an article by a chubby black sports writer in the Midwest. In his column, he was alluding to the fact that the media’s portrayal of Sean Taylor’s death, in which they’ve continuously made reference to his troubled past, is simply Taylor’s fault.

In the column, the writer stated that the white media’s negative portrayal of the former Washington Redskins safety was clearly created by him for choosing the way he lived. He argues that Taylor made choices that led to his death.

That is what got my fingers clicking on the keyboard.

Taylor was surely “caught up” in some things that led to him being killed. I believe that he was murdered, and that someone was coming to get him. But someone coming to get you doesn’t mean that you are begging to “get got”.

What the chubby writer doesn’t understand is that when one lives in the black male jungle, you are going to sometimes have enemies. You get challenged when you are the “alpha male” and everyone wants to take you down: “Awe, that N*gga ain’t sh*t” is what you deal with on a regular basis. Challengers come at you constantly, many of whom have nothing to lose.

When you are dropped in Vietnam, you are sometimes forced to be a soldier. There are no angels in this game, but then again, none of us are angels are we? I know this, because I have dealt with this as a young man.

My best friend was shot in the head, and I was almost shot myself. Neither of us deserved to be shot, but that’s not how the media would have seen it.

It didn’t matter that I was a straight A student. It didn’t matter that I was going to be the only African-American in the US to get a PhD in Finance. Instead, the world would have focused on what Boyce Watkins did in order to get himself killed.

I understand why the chubby sports writer doesn’t get it, since chubby people don’t do well in the jungle. It’s easier to just sit in your office and run your mouth about it.

I recall being on ESPN with Method Man and I mentioned the death of his close friend, Tupac Shakur. Meth put Shakur’s behavior in perspective by explaining “When you are on top, people are always constantly coming at you.” Perhaps that is why Taylor had a gun and a machete under his bed, I’m not sure.

Was the media wrong for constantly discussing Taylor’s past the way they did? Yes. Why? Because there are many things about a person’s life we can choose to focus on. Taylor was a family man.

He was a great team leader elected by his peers. He worked like hell to be successful at a very young age. He led his team in interceptions. Instead, we choose to focus on an argument that implies that he had his murder coming because he was stupid.

When Nicole Brown Simpson was killed, did we focus on the fact that she was a crackhead, or a mother of two?

If Marv Albert were to be killed, would we focus on the fact that he was tried for sexual assault or that he was a great sports commentator?

If a soldier in Iraq is killed, do we try to argue that he was silly for choosing to fight an unjust war for a corrupt administration or do we focus on the fact that he was a brave American with a family?

Bottom line: We would show respect for the dead by focusing on the great things they achieved in life. I am sure you have things about your past you would hate to have someone mention in your obituary.

The same thing goes for myself.

Although none of us is perfect, it’s ironic that when black males are killed, the media tends to focus on their dark side, but the same is not true with others who have sides that are equally dark.

Nobody, no matter how much “beef” they are in, deserves to be killed. Sean Taylor was only 24 years old and surely made mistakes like the rest of us. Respect this man’s memory and celebrate his achievements.

Those who want to judge him need to start by judging themselves.