Basketball fans around the world are anxiously awaiting more information about the condition of beloved former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom, who reportedly overdosed Tuesday afternoon at Love Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada.
But all mainstream media seem to be concerned with, when not busy making the story as tawdry and sensationalistic as possible, are the goings and comings of his wife, Khloe Kardashian, and the rest of the Kardashian clan.
Look at what Kendall tweeted here.
Look, there’s a distraught Kris pacing outside the Las Vegas hospital.
Kim hopped on a private jet with her mother and sister.
Khloe hasn’t left his bedside.
While mainstream media are busy with that narrative, many people on social media have occupied their time blaming Odom’s condition on the “Kardashian curse,” the evil that allegedly befalls men who dare to become entangled with the Kardashian women.
The Kardashian Curse: Their Dad - Dead OJ - Murdering & Robbing Rob - Fat Bruce - Became Caitlyn Kanye - Even Crazier Lamar - Life Support
— ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@RanealTheFakest) October 15, 2015
I’m not one of those people who seem to have an irrational hatred of Khloe Kardashian. All I’ve ever seen her do (publicly) is love and support Lamar Odom, and all I’ve seen him do (publicly) is declare how pivotal she was in bringing him peace, stability and family. Even if I were one of those people, though, what’s happening right now isn’t taking place on an E! set, and too many people seem to have forgotten that.
Lamar Odom—loving father, friend, two-time NBA champion and 2010-2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year—has been pushed to the margins as his life’s story is recast. He has become a thing, a junkie, the big, black body found in a brothel; the oversexed, washed-up athlete pumped full of Viagra; the manipulated plaything of a family full of women who apparently are simultaneously shallow and powerful enough to bring men to their knees.
This is a man who is a star, a man who has overcome more adversity than any one person should face in a lifetime; yet his story is being framed as a #KUWTK outtake for vultures to consume.
In a 2011 Los Angeles Times interview, Odom discussed the avalanche of tragic events that had shaped his life:
His mother, Cathy Mercer, died of colon cancer when he was 12. His grandmother Mildred Mercer, who reared him, died in 2004. His son Jayden, not quite 7 months old, died of sudden infant death syndrome in his crib in 2006.
There are aunts, cousins and friends, Odom said, all of them “taken away from me.”
Odom was reflecting on his life after attending the funeral of his cousin, who was slain at the age of 24. The next day, an SUV he was traveling in was involved in an accident that led to the death of a 15-year-old boy. This was weighing heavily on Odom, who said, “I may need to see a psychologist.”
Factor in the drug-related deaths of two of his best friends in June while he was battling his own addiction, and the news that Odom is now fighting for his life is not surprising; it is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, it is also predictable in a world where masculinity dictates that men never seek help even when they feel as if they’re “breaking down mentally,” as Odom said that he was a few years ago.
According to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief released in June, black men were less likely to report feelings of depression than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, but of those black and white men who did report feelings of depression, “only 26 percent of blacks were under medication while … 45 percent [of] whites” were.
Though limited access to health care was listed as a determining factor in the medication disparities, Stephen Blumberg, the study’s lead author and associate director for science with the NCHS, said that there are potentially societal issues at play. “We suspect that there are several social and cultural pressures that lead black and Hispanic men to be less likely than white men to seek mental-health treatments,” he said.
“These pressures, which include ideas about masculinity and the stigma of mental illness, may be more pronounced for men of color,” he continued. “And these same forces may lead men of color to be more likely to deny or hide feelings of anxiety or depression.”
Or to use drugs.
According to DualDiagnosis.org, people suffering with depression often self-medicate with illegal substances, which, in turn, exacerbate their depression. As a result, according to the site, “depression and substance abuse feed into each other, and one condition will often make the other worse.”
In 2003 the U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted a study that found that “given the harsh environment in which a large number of young urban, black men live, the high prevalence of substance abuse might be an attempt to fight off depression.”
Odom’s father, Joe, was a heroin addict who was absent for most of Odom’s childhood, a fact that also contributed to Odom’s feelings of abandonment and rejection, something he talked about openly on Khloe & Lamar. He may have escaped his “harsh” environment in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., but he could not escape the demons that clung to him as tightly as the stigma that clings to mental-health issues in many quarters of black America.
And it is literally killing us.
This is what we should be talking about, not how Kris is doing, or what Kendall is tweeting, or some silly “curse.” We should be talking about the huge, positive impact that Odom has clearly had on those around him, as evidenced by how relentlessly their love is interrupting a salacious media cycle that is treating him in a way that would never happen if he were, say, a Cory Monteith or Philip Seymour Hoffman.
We should be talking about how seeking help for mental illness or substance abuse is a sign of strength, not of weakness. We should be talking about how we can be more intellectually curious and emotionally honest about addiction and mental illness so that we can recognize the signs in the people we care about.
“Death always seems to be around me,” Odom said in the 2011 Los Angeles Times interview. “I’ve been burying people for a long time.”
Here’s to hoping that death does not visit him this time and that when he wakes up, he can feel how very much he is loved.