Disclaimer: This based on a Facebook status I made on Jan. 30. It remains relevant almost a month later.
CW: sexual assault
So, I am a survivor, and every survivor’s response to being retraumatized by the death and/or accolades of a rapist, abuser or perpetrator is valid. I am with you. I hear you. I feel you. Not one abuser is let off the hook and absolved of what they have done. They do not deserve the victim/survivor’s forgiveness, and the victim/survivor is never obligated to forgive them.
The amount of white women who come down harder on black perpetrators than their white counterparts is concerning. I was extremely angry with how many of my peers — mostly from high school — lauded XXXTentacion after his murder, blatantly ignoring the egregious acts of sexual violence and terror he committed against his pregnant partner. These acts have been known by the public since before his rise in popularity. Pitchfork began extensively covering X’s criminal history in February 2017 when his rise in popularity began while he was behind bars. They wrote a piece in September 2017 outlining the victim/survivor’s testimony, but this made little difference to his growing fan base. Since his death on Jun. 18, 2018, Pitchfork released the transcript of the 27-minute voice memo where X confessed that he violently abused his pregnant partner. I have never come down harder on a celebrity abuser on a social media platform before X. Even though I do not talk about every rapist in real life or on any platform, the disparity in my advocacy has been clear, and for that I apologize.
There has been lots of discourse on Facebook about Kobe and the 2003 sexual assault case, particularly concerning white women coming down harder on him than on white abusers. Most white women have not seen or felt the impact of Kobe, but he was everyone’s hero in my elementary and middle school. Every throw to the trash or recycling was led by “KOBE!” The past is fuzzy for me, but I remember a lot of purple and yellow jerseys.
Kobe’s talent and impact is not a reason to let 2003 slide. In writing this, I am in no way saying he deserves a pass.
But Kobe is incredibly different than other perps, such as Brett Kavanaugh, Brock Turner, Donald Trump, David Bowie, Harvey Weinstein, Amber Heard, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, XXXTentacion, Michael Jackson or Bill Cosby — Kobe acknowledges the encounter happened. He listened to the survivor and came to understand what he did was wrong:
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did,” Bryant said in his statement. “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
Unfortunately, I have come to know many rapists, abusers and perps in the four and a half years I’ve been at Lawrence, as well as others at home. The majority of them will never understand what they did or how their actions affected the victim/survivor, or even care at all. Only a handful of folks I know seem to fully understand and feel the weight and severity of their actions to the point where they would never do that to a human being ever again. Obviously, I do not personally know Kobe Bryant, but he has grown to become a great father to four daughters, as well as a husband. His fourth daughter is not even a year old yet. She will have no memory of her father or of her sister Gianna. If anyone has learned from and grown from his mistakes, it is Kobe Bryant.