SHIAVON’S JAWN: Torn between mourning a superhero and being an ally

Goodbye Kobe Bryant


Shiavon Chatman, Opinion Editor

A jawn. Pronounced jôn. Noun. A person, place, thing, or event that doesn’t need a specific name. An indescribable, but memorable entity.

I’m Shiavon and this is Shiavon’s Jawn. (If these two words don’t rhyme, then you’re saying my name wrong.)

Growing up, I watched Laker games with my dad while we ate dinner. It was our time and no one else was invited. I cherished those moments. But now I remember them with a somber glow.

Kobe Bryant’s death is the most impactful and surprising celebrity passing since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. 

Before you fight me, I’m well aware Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and Martin Luther King Jr. died whilst fighting for Black liberation from white supremacy and the U.S. government. (“And” as if they’re not one in the same.) 

They were targets for years and knew they wouldn’t live long enough to see their grandchildren. But Kobe was different. He died doing something that was routine for him – flying to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. 

He became a staple in the American lexicon and was so huge that his death is creating waves globally. Including my home. 

My dad has been a Laker fan since 1979. That was Magic Johnson’s rookie year where he led the team to a championship against the 76ers in Game six. 

You have no idea how many times I heard that story growing up. 

My dad has been loyal ever since. Not to the players but to the team. But with Kobe it was different. My dad appreciated his loyalty to the team and his tenacity as a player. 

Twitter is my favorite social media app because it challenges the status-quo.

Among tweets of remembering how great of a ball player and father he was, a lot of people tweeted out reminders to sexual assault survivors that it is OK to turn off the news and not feel sympathy today. Or to even have feelings of grief as well. 

As a woman who is feeling empty because her favorite ball player died, I also feel guilty. 

In 2003, a 19-year-old hotel employee accused Kobe of raping her, but refused to testify. She filed a civil lawsuit against Kobe, which was settled out of court. Kobe apologized and admitted to having sexual relations with her but denied raping her. 

Often times, when women don’t testify, people assume it’s because they’re lying. But when women do, they’re vilified and ostracized. We don’t take care of women who report sexual assault, so I understand the pushback and people being hesitant about mourning his death. 

But being skeptical about a white woman accusing a Black man of rape is not victim blaming – it’s necessary. This is something young Black men are taught as children so they don’t become victims of false rape allegations. The Emmett Till murder scared Black mothers, but they used it  to educate their sons. Skepticism doesn’t perpetuate rape culture. There is pushback on both sides. 

How do we grieve man-made superheroes that were accused of rape, while responsibly being an ally to sexual assault survivors? I don’t know. I’m torn. Part of my childhood is gone forever. I don’t have all of the answers, just a lot of questions. 

Rest easy Gianna. Rest easy No. 24. 

This is my weekly column where I’ll keep you updated on my straight-to-DVD life, my hip-hop snob opinions, being uncomfortable in this political climate and being a Black woman in predominantly white spaces.