Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor, "Manchild in the Promised Land"

Around 12:30 a.m., my son, home from a stint in the Army, came in asking had I heard that Sean Taylor had been shot. "What???!!!" is all I could say as I reached for the remote and turned on the TV, frantically flipping through the channels. My head was starting to get crowded. I was just saying last Sunday, as I watched my 'Skins go 5 and 6, how I'd sure be glad when his knee healed! Now, I was hearing, "critical condition, fighting for his life, hit in the femoral artery, significant blood loss - unconscious." My head got more crowded as memories of driving up the Keys to Gulliver Prep and watching my son's team take on Sean Taylor flooded in. Don't get me wrong, Gulliver Prep was a great team. But let's be clear, anybody who ever played them knew the guy wearing #1 on that blue and white jersey was a large part of the reason why. His, was the name on the lips of every player as they practiced in the hot South Florida sun in preparation for that ride up north. Containing Sean Taylor - which of course involved bracing for the hits that were sure to come -was the goal. Watching him play this high school game, you knew you were indeed watching a Manchild headed for the Promised Land of the NFL. I listened to the news and followed the story online all day. I started writing this as I prayed they could save his young life. They could not. I couldn't understand it. After all, there's a brand spanking new state-of-the-art hospital only 10 or 15 minutes away - by car! But then again I thought, "None of us control anything really, we just think we do."
I hurt for Sean's entire family. But as I watched my own Manchild, experiencing his own kind of "six degrees of separation" moment having played football and run track against Sean Taylor and Devin Hester here in South Florida, I just ached for his mother, his grandmothers, his child's mother and her mother as well. You see Mama-love, no better or worse than a father's, is just something different altogether. The next day, I got an email from my husband with a link to another "Fear and Loathing from Kansas City" editorial by Jason Whitlock. All I'll say is his accusations about "our" self-hatred sound a whole lot like the pot calling the kettle black (forget the whole pun thing if you're thinking it - I meant exactly what I said!). He obviously doesn't make the connection that his self-hatred "...on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant." Keep using the Black community as your whipping boy if that works for you Prince Whitlock. I just wonder, where will you be when "the chicken's come home to roost?" This young man's death reveals a life way fuller than any around which the Whitlocks, Cosbys, Winfreys, McWhorters, et al of this world could ever wrap their brains. Their take on our lives mirror the attitudes of many who say rape victims or battered spouses, somehow or another, did something wrong or did not do something right and that is why whatever happened, happened. "If she hadn't been hanging around those people," "If she wasn't in that area," "If she'd been hit before, why didn't she leave?" You get what I mean.
I found this picture, posted by an obvious fan on Sean's MySpace page. I was immediately struck by the symbolism. Clad in his Redskins uniform with wings, he's depicted as the dash between birth and death. How poignant is that? During the only time in life when we have any say at all, he had his say, becoming what he'd worked hard to be. Much like Claude Brown's, Sean's journey to the final "Promised Land" was one of becoming. It proved to be an exercise in self-determination, self-discovery, revelation and transformation if we are to believe all the comments made by those who knew him best. And isn't that what life is all about? This dash between the dates, though here way too briefly, had mattered a whole lot, to a whole lot of people, in a whole lot of ways.

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