On Sunday, January 26th, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died with 7 others in a helicopter crash on their way to a basketball event. Most people reacted in disbelief, as Bryant was only 41, and although we know death has no age target, it’s still hard for most of us to comprehend it when someone so young dies. His daughter was only 13 years-old.
For the purpose of this article and the audience, I feel the need to address the elephants in the room. In July of 2003, Bryant was arrested for sexual assault of a hotel employee. She was 19 years-old and the case was dropped after she refused to testify against him. He later admitted to having an adulterous encounter with her and settled a civil suit out of court. He also publicly apologized to her but admitted no guilt. Bryant’s marriage survived the situation.
The second elephant, and the relevance will become clear in the next section, is that Bryant’s wife is not a Black woman. Like many Black male athletes, he chose to marry inter-racially. I do not know Vanessa Bryant’s race but she appears to be Latina.
Everybody has their own definition of divestment but on Facebook, it seems to mean Black women walking away from concerning themselves with people who aren’t willing to actively invest in Black womanhood.
I’ve seen posts from many of these women who call themselves divested, that ranged from some variation of “oh, well…too bad” to “he wasn’t married to a Black woman so I don’t care.” There have been a few, though not many, that specifically name the sexual assault case as the reason for their lack of sympathy for his death. I am a sexual assault survivor so I get it. If I were to hear word that my rapist died, I wouldn’t give a damn either.
With that said, there’s something that is interesting to me. If you’re divested, arguably, you wouldn’t care who he married. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression the divestment was supposed to offer a sense of freedom, and if the first thing you can think of when a man dies is who he didn’t marry, that doesn’t sound like freedom to me.
But what I was most taken by was that the fact that a woman losing her child, for several of the women on my timeline, was not enough to engender even a minimal level of empathy. Kobe Bryant never registered on my meter unless someone brought him up. I know nothing about his widow but that she’s not Black. Yet, I’m able to relate to losing someone you love dearly. I am able to relate to thinking everything is fine and then being emotionally knocked off kilter by sudden devastating news. I am able to imagine the despair of losing a child.
Even if I had nothing but bad things to say about Kobe Bryant, I could at least feel for the woman who is now and forever without her baby. The best part is that if I didn’t want to show that simple act of humanity for whatever reason, I could simply say nothing. Divestment wasn’t supposed to make us callous.