During an interview for the New Yorker, basketball icon Kobe Bryant commented on reactions to the Trayvon Martin case, and his opinion might raise some eyebrows given that Bryant is a celebrity and not supposed to engage in this sort of independent thinking.
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” he said. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
Brant was reacting to this tweet from fellow basketball star LeBron James:
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2012
It would be a mistake to take this as a statement on Bryant’s position on the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. I honestly don’t know where Bryant comes down on that, and I don’t think it matters. His words are less about guilt or innocence in a specific criminal case than they are about the way our society reacts to racial issues.
The photo James tweeted went out about the same time NBC News released audio of George Zimmerman’s 911 call edited to make it sound racist, and Spike Lee tweeted out what he thought was Zimmerman’s home address (turns out it wasn’t). People jumped to conclusions about the Martin/Zimmerman case because it rang the right political bells about race and gun control.
The truth matters less than the narrative. Bryant is saying that if we truly want to progress as a society, we need to move past that.
And Bryant himself has some first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to stand judged of something by people who don’t have all the facts.