In the March 31st issue of the New Yorker there is an interesting profile of NBA star Kobe Bryant in which he discusses his life, career and of course Trayvon Martin. But before I get to that I'd like to tell a quick story about Kobe.
Kobe's family is from West Philly, where I am also from. His parents, and uncle were close friends with my parents and uncle back in the day. Kobe's uncle John Cox was actually one of my teachers in (summer -- don't ask) High School.
When Kobe's father "Jellybean" Bryant left the NBA he moved his family to Italy, where Kobe essentially grew up -- but when they would visit Philadelphia from time to time, Kobe's mom would come to my mother's hair salon for her new hairdo.
In the 80's my mother had a full-fledge beauty salon in our finished basement. It was really dope ya'll, and she literally raised myself and two younger brothers on that income alone. Kobe's mom and older sister (who had my mom do her hair as recently as about 5 years ago, my mom actually still does Kobe's grandmother's hair) were loyal patrons when they were in the area.
At one visit to the basement salon in probably around 1988 or ''89 Kobe came too, which was rare. They brought me and my brothers Italian currency as a gift, which was cool, even though we lost it a few months later. During that rare visit by a young Kobe Bryant he and his sister and mother all got new hairdos. Jerry Curls to be specific. That's right folks, Kobe Bryant had a jerry curl in the 80's and my mother was the stylist -- and if I had photos, I'd be a rich man. Hopefully this will give you some context for what I am about to say. Maybe not, but either way it was a great story!
During his interview with Ben McGrath for the New Yorker, Kobe took the opportunity to diss the Miami Heat's tribute to Trayvon Martin. You remember the one where they all wore hoodies as a show of solidarity? Yeah, Kobe wasn't feeling that too much. Here is his explanation:
"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.”
So apparently Kobe thinks that the Miami Heat, and the black community at large acted prematurely by rallying against the murder of an unarmed black teen, by a white (yes I said it, white) neighborhood watchman. That didn't make any sense to you Kobe? Well I guess it wouldn't given that you are clearly completely lost to who you are.
Maybe Jim Brown had it right when he said that you were having an identity crisis as a result of growing up overseas. Your perspective is completely different than a black man, privileged or not who grew up here in America. Yet you still wanted that jerry curl. I wonder how your Italian classmates reacted when you went to school that following week with your new do? Did it affirm your blackness to the all white class? Did they isolate you as a result of you embracing this "ethnic" trend?
To quote your own words, you stated that one should listen to facts just like any other situation. Well that's what black America, and the Miami Heat did. We listened to the facts, just like any other situation, and concluded that what was done was steeped in racism, and a deep seeded fear of black men and boys. Too bad you couldn't see that Kobe, maybe it's because you are confused about your culture. Maybe you should ask your father, or uncle if they've ever been profiled here in Philly, or had to deal with some form of racism. Maybe you should spend more time letting the black men in your life, who know about the struggle teach you something. Maybe should've listened to Jim Brown instead of jumping to your own defense. Maybe you should just keep your mouth shut about things you don't understand.
I think NAS said it best in this song: