By: Flora Oliveira
On Sunday, January 26 2020, Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old, Gianna Bryant, were pronounced dead after a fatal helicopter accident. The tragic news struck the internet and several media outlets in an untimely fashion. Due to the prominence of Kobe Bryant’s skills on the court, the news media jumped to publish their articles.
After a whirlwind of updates, the news was official— Gianna and Kobe had both passed, along with several other crew members, friends, and others whose names were yet to be regarded. 9 people total in the helicopter crash. With their deaths, almost all of the sports-watching world began posting their love and support for Kobe, eager to jump on the romanticization train.
With the same response following OJ Simpson’s conviction, XXXtentacion, Kobe Bryant, R. Kelly, I feel the need to have THAT conversation; the discussion about how our society negates black, trans, and working class women to be a field of enlightenment for men.
In 2003, a 19 year old hotel employee filed a police report that stated Kobe Bryant had raped her. A working class women had to face the backlash of the very famous abuser denying even having sex with her. Later in the case, Kobe revealed he “may” have mistaken the encounter as consensual. Although enthusiastic consent can be hard to interpret for some, verbally asking for consent is an option. This is why many see the fault in Kobe’s apology. One which he claimed he misinterpreted consent. This confusion on consent shouldn’t be taken lightly— if you are not clear on if the situation is consensual, then there should be an immediate stop of the “unclear” interaction. Kobe’s case highlights an important fault in the “no means no” usage. Although no means no, “only yes means yes” is not directly implied. Without a clear no or yes, the response should be to end the interaction. Yet Kobe continued, only to apologize for his confusion after the fact, almost as if the abuse done to the victim was a misunderstanding.
Regardless of the technicalities of how to give or not give consent, rape is about power. If Kobe truly wanted a consensual encounter, the age-power dynamic would have been assessed. Kobe at 24, sought out a 19 year old worker. Not only was she 19, but the victim was also on the clock. Another power dynamic (class/capitalism-power dynamic), one which allowed Kobe to feel as if he was free to say or do anything because the 19 year old worker had to comply to a certain extent to uphold her job. The class/capitalism-power dynamic upholds the standard that workers must please those who are multi millionaires, especially if they are guests of your job because if you do not please them, it would reflect in loss of that job.
Kobe’s victimizing apology, which to some, seemed to come from good intentions, formulated in the claims of his year being “incredibly difficult.” He followed up by debating the fact that the victim’s pain and experience must have been awful “too”(The Nation).
I dont know about you, but I wouldn’t have to rape someone to know that they would suffer the effects of it. Not only does his apology defy the purpose of apologizing, but it demonstrates the lack of respect towards women’s bodies. Not to mention the fact that the apology was not voluntary, but instead the victim insisted it was done as a form of reparation (The Nation).
With fans, abusers, and all of society constantly silencing rape victims to excuse another man’s “growth”, we are telling women that their bodies, their safety, and their bodily autonomy is lesser than to that of the man’s choices. Our society, and our black community specifically, needs to recognize that not only has systemic oppression divided us among ourselves, but colonialism has also infringed its patriarchal standards on our women. Our women not only face the lashes of racism and abuse, but we also face the outcome of that violence being translated into a belittling story of our perpetrators’ growth. We, as a community, must ask ourselves: What does classifying rape as a “mistake” do to our women, and more importantly, the victims? Why are valuing an abuser’s career, over the women’s very real life?
Having this discussion is extremely important because not only was the rape disregarded then, it still is. With the media romanticizing their so-called “hero,” they show the failure to prioritize women’s bodies. The lack of consideration for women begins and ends with rape culture, and unfortunately the past few weeks have been awful for survivors who have continued to listen to their peers’ “declarations of love” for yet another abuser.
With Black History Month here, our priority should and needs to be: elevating the community. We can’t do this without going out of our way to systematically change how we treat black, trans, and immigrant women. We must grow, learn, read, and question the things that seem “natural”. That being said, I think it’s important to clarify that our bodies are not educational tools, our bodies are not learning grounds. We aren’t here to educate you, we aren’t here for you to violate. We aren’t here for you to grow from, and we sure as hell aren’t here for you to abuse.
*BM are not the only perpetrators, other races rape too. The myth of the BM being a rapist is detrimental to BM and is often just a perpetuation of racist stereotypes; read Angela Davis, The Myth of the Black Rapist