Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Kobe Rorschach

Here's yet another article, this one in Slate, going on for many inches exploring the possible stereotypes and biases that may be coming into play with respect to the Kobe Bryant rape case. But the biases and stereotypes discussed are all gender-based biases and stereotypes:

Long before the first juror is selected, the nation is making up its mind about Kobe Bryant. Web sites condemning his accuser as a whore are proliferating. ... Without a filament of evidence, journalists have split: Some call the young woman his "accuser"; others say "victim." Some complain that he's already been tried and convicted in the media; others complain that she has been raped again in the media. ... The legal rules for rape have been "reformed" to the point that defendants have few of the usual presumptions of innocence while victims are still humiliated and exposed at trial.

How did this happen?

An interesting question. Historical gender biases, such as those that would characterize as a "whore" a woman who visits a man in his hotel room, matter. But, obviously, inter-racial rape has a whole additional set of historical biases and horrors to worry about.

Inter-racial rape may have been the only common historical example of the application of that rallying cry of some modern feminists: "If she said so, it's true." As To Kill a Mockingbird shows, the historical application of that rallying cry in that context was not exactly a benefit to society. One might rephrase it in that context as: "If she says so, he dies - in a tree."

But the Slate article again doesn't even mention the inter-racial nature of the case at all, and therefore doesn't explore any of the special, and especially destructive, stereotypes and biases that may be coming into play here. The word "race" does not even occur in this article. Nor do the words "white" or "black." But they do matter. Some racial stereotypes and biases may hurt Mr. Bryant, and some may help him.

But they all undermine justice, although one couldn't know any of that from this article.

POSTSCRIPT:Many things are not what they seem, including the Rorschach link in the title of this post.

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