In a recent New Yorker profile, Kobe Bryant shared his thoughts about race and how it relates to Trayvon Martin.
Setting aside a minute the fact that Bryant doesn’t seem know much about the Trayvon Martin case, what strikes me about this exchange is his insistence on questioning what it means to be Black in America, particularly from the perspective of someone who grew up elsewhere. In this vein I think of Zade Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent discussion at the Schomburg, where Adichie talked at length about coming to the United States from Nigeria and learning how deeply embedded race is in American culture. What sets Bryant apart is his stingy insistence on clinging to a “post-racial” identity, this very old, conservative notion that Black people should not be treated differently in this country — despite all of the evidence, like Martin’s death, that they are. People didn’t stand up for Trayvon Martin just because he was a Black boy, they did it because his death so sharply illustrated the dangers of being a Black boy in America.