Kobe, Trayvon and Black Twitter

Even though it turned out that the Sanford, Fla., police department was correct in its initial determination that it did not have enough evidence to get a murder conviction against Zimmerman, it was still important for people to call for a trial -- for the legal side of Trayvon Martin's story to be written as an extensive essay rather than a brief Facebook post, to have a conversation about the dangers of racial profiling, to ask whether our country values the right to own and use a gun over the right to live. If all of that came from African-Americans rushing in, so be it. 

Sometimes, the African-American perspective simply means sympathy, not advocacy. It's wondering if wearing a hoodie while walking my dog through my mostly white neighborhood automatically makes me a crime suspect and a candidate for "justifiable" homicide. It's president Barack Obama saying "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago" and bringing up the common African-American experiences of hearing car doors lock while walking down the street or seeing women clutch their purses while stepping on an elevator. "That all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario," Obama said, "that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different."

For many African-Americans, it was the moment they had been waiting for from Obama. It didn't have to be a policy statement or a law enacted, simply an indication from someone in such a powerful position that he feels the same way. That's why Black Twitter felt so disappointed in Bryant and let him know about it: He didn't seem to come from a place of understanding.

There's no such thing as the African-American perspective, but there's certainly an African-American perspective, and it shouldn't be dismissed as merely a victim's mentality. You don't need a desire to be a victim to become one.

Trayvon Martin was a real victim. At the very least, he was a gunshot victim, but there were questions beyond that -- murder victim? Victim of racial profiling? -- and, at first, it seemed that African-Americans were the only ones donning the Sherlock Holmes hats. A system predicated on checks and balances requires someone to speak out, or at least question. Sometimes, passive acceptance can be more dangerous than overreaction.

Kobe doesn't mind being defined as black; he just doesn't want to be restricted by that definition. He made that clear in his comments right before The New Yorker passage in question, when he told the writer: "There is a bigger issue in terms of being an African-American athlete and the box people try to put you in because of it. And it's always a struggle to step outside of that."

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