The accusation that a black man raped a white woman has been enough to incite violence against the accused throughout much of American history, sometimes despite evidence that the accusation was false. The New York Times says that as Kobe Bryant prepares to face trial in Eagle, Colo., his celebrity and wealth may make more of an impression on jurors — and in the court of public opinion — than the color of his skin.
Some scholars and social critics say the simple answer is that society has traded one set of preoccupations for another. Race, as an issue of trial strategy and social debate, has been supplanted in the Bryant case, they say, by questions of celebrity and class; what really separates defendant and accuser is not color but power. Mr. Bryant has power in abundance as a wealthy basketball star for the Los Angeles Lakers, and his accuser, a former front-desk clerk at a hotel who is from a small town in Colorado, does not.