And once again, this is how we die.
Fallen, crumpled, bleeding from a bullet's hole. Woman and child left to wail, left to mourn. Left.
It was, of course, not a "we" who died that way last week in Miami, but a "he," NFL star Sean Taylor, 24, shot in his home by a burglar. But maybe we can be forgiven, we black people in general, we black men in particular, for placing a "we" where others would a "he," for seeing in the fate of this singular individual all the brothers and sisters we have wept and mourned and given back to the soil. Maybe we can be forgiven for feeling the only difference is that the world knows his name and did not know theirs.
And this is how we die. We die in profligate numbers. Just under 15,000 Americans were murdered in 2006. Roughly half of them - 7,421 - were black. African-Americans are 12 percent of the nation's population.
And this is how we die. We die young. Of the 7,421 African-American murder victims of 2006, 3,028 - better than 40 percent - were Sean Taylor's age or less.
And this is how we die. We kill one another. Of the 3,303 African-American murder victims whose assailants are known to authorities, 92 percent were killed by other blacks.
It's easy to make too much of that last statistic. After all, murder, like other violent crime, tends to be a segregated thing. About 82 percent of white murder victims owe their demise to another white person, yet one never hears lamentations about the scourge of "white on white" crime. Violent crime is, more than anything, a matter of proximity and opportunity.
Still, with all that said, that difference of 10 percentage points of likelihood whispers a soft suggestion that sometimes, we don't much value us, that some of us have learned to see our lives the way the nation historically has: as cheap and lacking in worth. Note that even before three suspects were detained Friday, it was being taken for granted by some Internet posters and at least one black columnist that Taylor's assailant would prove to be black. That is a dangerous, and potentially embarrassing, assumption. But at the same time, no one will exactly be shocked if police end up parading disheveled black kids past television cameras.
Because this is how we die.
We die shot in the head and shot in the gut and shot in the back and shot in the chest and shot in the thigh. We die on asphalt and on concrete, and lying in bed and slumped against refrigerators and prostrate on gurneys in the back of ambulances hurtling down city streets and quietly inside, too, in the soul a little, at the carnage our communities become.
We die and it goes unremarked, die so much it's hardly news anymore. A child dies from random bullets or a famous man dies at a burglar's hand and the media are all over it, yeah. But 12 percent of the nation is 50 percent of the murder victims and it's mainly business as usual. No government task force convenes to tell us why this is. No rallying cries ring from podiums and pulpits. Crowds do not march as they did in Jena, La., demanding justice.
But one could argue that murder is the greatest injustice of all. And life the most fundamental of civil rights.
We ought not - "I" ought not - deny Sean Taylor his singularity, his personhood, in the rush to make him a symbol. So let us say here for the record: No, this is not 7,421 murders. This is one. One heartbeat stilled. One child fatherless. One family shattered. One.
I understand all that. Still, maybe we can be forgiven for feeling that, in the broadest outlines, we've seen this story before. Because this is how we die. And yes, Sean Taylor is one man.
But he's also one more.