Sunday was a hard day.
I won’t ever forget that I was sitting on the couch eating breakfast when my husband said…’TMZ just reported that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.’
First of all, its not news because TMZ reported it. It could not have been true.
Within the hour other media outlets also confirmed that he had been on a helicopter that morning and that there were 5 people with him. Then came the news that his daughter was a passenger. As if any of us following the story could bear any more, the news conference reported that the actual count was nine.
Nine people in eternity. Nine people connected in real life to other people. People who called them Mom or Dad or sister or niece. People who were extraordinary and living ordinary lives that have now slipped into eternity.
The day was not yet over before people started talking about Kobe’s legacy and the fact that we should honor the victims of rape and make sure that this part of his story is included in any narrative.
On the day that he died?
Like….the world doesn’t get one day to just grieve these nine souls?
Let me tell you. I was never a Kobe fan. Ever. I could care less about the Lakers. I grew up a Knicks fan. Kobe honestly wasn’t really even on my radar. I was much more impressed by who Kobe was in retirement. The brilliance of his business acumen. The love and pride he had in his children and wife. His creativity and ability to reincarnate himself from basketball legend to Oscar winner and filmmaker. His affirmation and support of women’s sports. His work to create a space for youth sports. So many other things too! He made more money in four years after he retired than in his career. Mindblown. That is legacy!
I have to say though, as a Black woman, I have strong feelings about what I see white women doing with his legacy and now an increasing number of black women doing as well. This compulsion women have to center themselves in a narrative. If you weren’t talking about Kobe’s rape case on Thursday or Friday or Saturday….what makes it so relevant now?
It is relevant because the narrative is that black men can’t have redemption. Even if they seemingly deserve it. This is not a new phenomenon. What is seemingly new is the way women of all backgrounds seem to fall in line with giving in to eviscerating this man even while his body has not yet been identified by a coroner. This is one of the disappointments of the ‘Me Too’ movement in that….an honest call from women of color to women of color gets co-opted by white voices who now want to say they stand in solidarity with the stories of other women, but weaponize this solidarity consistently and then gaslight other black women into making a choice between black men with a redemption story and sisterhood.
Solidarity has an expiration date.
I’m not with that at all.
I don’t understand why black men have to do MORE penance. Have to be MORE humiliated. Kobe’s accuser isn’t even out and about ASKING for people to center her in this discussion. She is not telling her story hours after his death and begging folks to not forget she was harmed. So then who is benefitting from the world discussing Kobe’s past?
This same thing happened to Michael Vick and at the time I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me so, but now years later with Kobe, I understand. Vick went to JAIL. He actually served time. It was still not enough. One of the most well respected coaches in the league put his reputation on the line to get Michael back to a QB position on a team….he was still booed almost everywhere he went. In the eyes of the law, he did his time, but in the eyes of a plurality of white folks? It wasn’t enough.
He should have never worked another day. He should have never had joy. He should have never benefited from his talent.
Redemption is an actual thing, folks. People can be terrible and change. People can do harm and find their way to forgiveness. You look at what people do with their legacy. You look at who they become in time. Who they remain. That tells you a lot about what they are willing to do to be a new human. By all accounts, Kobe was an amazing #girldad to four fantastic young people. He was an adoring husband who worked to rebuild his marriage. He championed women’s causes with his mouth AND his money. How much is enough?
The women leading the charge on how we discuss Kobe’s legacy and center the voices of women not even connected to his story are problematic, and I’ll not be centering them at all. Until we can have real discussions about the power of white women’s tears as it relates to black men, until we can have real conversations about white supremacy and how it seeks to root out every good Black thing on this planet with impunity? I’ll be celebrating the ideas and joy that Kobe brought to so many people on and off the court.
He is a legend. He is worthy of my appreciation. He is black joy. He is black success. He will be a testament to how you can become a different and better version of yourself when you commit to being better.
His legacy matters. The way I teach it matters.
Redemption is also part of his legacy. I’m committing to teaching that truth on this man’s story with fidelity.
As teachers we have a responsibility to teach the truth.
That. Is MY truth.