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This article argues that coverage of the Kobe Bryant rape case illuminated bitter divisions in American society, because the allegations against Bryant brought forth tensions involving conceptions of Black masculinity, White femininity, and the role of sport and celebrity in public life. The divisions laid bare by the Bryant case involve long histories of discursive contests waged by social movements and state actors over the meanings of categories of race and gender. I argue that these struggles have influenced public understandings of history; that contemporary understandings of race, gender, and crime are very much indebted to rhetorical battles fought long ago; and that invocations of collective memory can help to determine how various audiences make sense of public dramas unfolding in the mass media.
Markovitz is with the University of California, San Diego, CA.