About twelve minutes after the world learned that Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter accident Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez posted a picture of him and his daughter with a caption reminding us that he was ‘credibly accused of rape in 2003.’ She retweeted a picture of a dead child (ignoring her existence) so she could be one of the first people to post Kobe’s demise and inform us that a black boogeyman had departed this earth.
Sonmez was then dismayed to discover that her tweets were poorly received by a large segment of the online community. She received intense backlash in the form of violent threats and was eventually suspended from her job. Sonmez defiantly reminded everyone that she had a duty to report on the rape charge because no one was talking about it…17 minutes after 9 people (including 3 children) died in a helicopter crash. Bye FeliciaBy …
The “we have to tell the whole ugly truth about Kobe” brigade is especially hypocritical considering this energy is hardly ever directed at violent white men (namely the president who 53% of them voted for).
The problem with Sonmez’s claim is that by retweeting an article written 13 years after he was accused of rape, Sonmez invalidated her own argument. A google search of Kobe and the word rape currently returns dozens of articles written just in the last two days. In the last TWO days. The 2003 rape case did in fact shape Kobe Bryant’s image and forever changed the trajectory of his career, so it is being acknowledged. You can’t claim that no one is talking about an event when there are dozens of articles, tweets, and blog posts about said event. The math simply doesn’t add up. Every time someone laments that “no one is talking about the rape case” you are in fact, talking about the rape case. But you know logic be damned right?
Before 2003, Kobe Bryant was on the fast track to becoming one of the NBA’s most wholesome stars. He had several mainstream sponsorships, the perfect marriage, and multiple championships under his belt. After he was accused of rape, he publicly apologized, acknowledged his wrongdoing, paid the victim a settlement in a civil suit, and retreated from public life for a time. When he emerged, he made it a point to engage life in a more meaningful and purposeful way. He matured, he grew into a mentor, an involved father, a feminist, and a conscious businessman. For 20 seasons he inspired people around the world with the “give it your all” mentality. He secretly volunteered for Make-a-Wish foundation, he created a girls’ basketball program, and was an ardent supporter of the WNBA.
The death of Kobe Bryant brought out a unique collective grief in the black community, especially for black men. They loved Kobe the NBA champion, the Olympian, the shit talker, the father, the brother, and leader. They identified with his perseverance and wanted to mimic his success in their own lives. But before they were even allowed to properly process this loss, white women started to demand that we demonize him and write him off completely “for the sake of victims and women” —regardless of what he did in the 17 years since the accusations were made against him.
It is no surprise that a lot of the “why aren’t you grieving victims of rape” are white women. The “we have to tell the whole ugly truth about Kobe” brigade is especially hypocritical considering this energy is hardly ever directed at violent white men (namely the president who 53% of them voted for). I could name a dozen white men whose feet they aren’t holding to even the most lukewarm of fires, but sure let’s heap all our collective #MeToo rage on a dead black man who actually tried to change his life for the better.
White women who claim to “care about women” very often fail to mention the women and girls who died in that horrible helicopter crash. Ultimately, I’m not surprised white women are coming for Kobe this way because they are not socialized to see us as humans. We are potential threats, and because Kobe was accused of assaulting a white woman he graduated from potential to perpetual threat, thus forever stripping him of his humanity. They didn’t hesitate to publish pictures of his dead child with headlines about a rape she was not a part of because our children are also invisible to them. Your white feminism is showing.
And it’s trash.
POC are constantly reminded that white America’s casually convenient moral outrage is always going to be inserted into our narratives. In all the talk of karma and just desserts I’ve seen no one mention of the untimely death of Vanessa’s baby which tells me all I need to know about your “concern for women.”
Let’s remember we are humans who will stumble, fall, intentionally misstep, apologize, attempt redemption, and grow. Let’s remember that in a white supremacist society black people will always be seen as other. Let’s also remember that restorative justice allows for people to remake and rebuild their humanity. Lastly, we define our heroes and should protect our sons from whatever legacy the world wants to force on them.