It’s the late spring, early summer of 2016 and I have just completed a viewing of the 5 part ESPN ’30 for 30′ documentary ‘O.J. : Made in America’. This is coming off recently viewing the 10 part docudrama mini-series produced by FX ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ this past February. In total over 18 hours of revisionist history dealing with the so-called ‘Trial of the Century’. It’s been just over 20 years since, time flies, no? I find myself taking an honest stock of both my personal, and emotional evolution in the years since the Clinton party of the 1990’s. Full disclosure, I am an African-American citizen of this fine nation. I, like so many millions of you, lived through the O.J. Simpson murder, Bronco chase, arrest, indictment, and interminable trial from the better part of June 1994 until October of 1995. Unless of course you were incarcerated in a Sudanese prison. If so, man did you miss some shit.
In June 1994 I was fresh out of undergrad and about to begin graduate school the following year. There was a ‘Malcolm X’ calendar with black marker strikes through dates past, hanging on the wall above my circa 1990’s 16 inch ‘Sanyo’ (I think) television set. That little square box television, and calendar made for approximately 3/5ths of my worldly possessions. They were of course carefully arranged inside my inconsequential Baltimore, Maryland apartment. I remember that my piss was virulent and my vinegar was pungent. I was newly educated and brimming with the kind of passion that questions the establishment, and rages against the machine. Looking back, I am at once amazed, ashamed, proud and astounded at my personal evolution over the past two decades. As crazy at this might sound, looking back at the O.J. Simpson trial has served as a yardstick as to that evolution, especially with regards to sociopolitical issues….Hold on, I’m about to get to that.
So, why do I despise Orenthal James Simpson? Well, there are actually a litany of reasons but I’ll start with the basics. On October 3, 1995, I like a majority of African-American citizens of this country and beyond, jumped up and down, and cheered like I had just won the world championship, of something important, upon hearing the ‘Not Guilty’ trial verdict. “F*ck yeah, O.J.!” I screamed at my television, like a nutball. Today, I can say in all sincererity that I am truly, deeply ashamed about doing that. I would also be embarrassed, however I was alone, as usual, in my apartment at the time. No witnesses. Anyway, how could I do that, you ask? Perhaps the better question would be why did I do that? The answer to that is at the same time simple, and complex (Don’t care if that sounds trite, it’s true damn it) Alright, let’s do simple first…I was cheering because for once in my life, the police didn’t get away with stepping on the black man’s neck until he broke it. That notion was so strong in me, that it literally overshadowed everything else, like human decency. In a way that is very appalling to me now. Even if he really was innocent (Stevie Wonder can see that he isn’t) how do I cheer when two people were murdered? Hold on, there’s a reason….and this may be difficult for my Caucasian readers to understand, but it’s the truth. In general, most Caucasian people haven’t had the same kind of systemic negative experiences with police and/or the justice system at large, that black folks have. True story. It’s basically an alien concept to most whites, and further more, Caucasians don’t have to think about that kind of unpleasantness. It’s basically ingrained in the black community to root against the police, as a matter of learned experince. What nauseates me (vomit saliva in mouth) today is that O.J. Simpson was able to garner the support of a community who have honest grievances, by sliding through the back door of our collective pain. The irony here is that O.J. Simpson hadn’t been ‘black’ since the day he stepped foot on the University of Southern California campus, back in 1967! In fact, he went out of his way to personally distance himself from the civil rights movement, as in ‘I’m not involved’. He distanced himself from the black community, and he distanced himself from the Civil Rights struggle, on purpose. “He wasn’t black, he was O.J.” He sure was…Up until the moment he ruthlessly butchered two innocent people. How did I not see this back then? I knew it all, didn’t I?
How dare this ‘man’ aka abuser, wife beater, murderer, and his attorney’s come calling on the black community for support when he made a career of refusing to even acknowledge our community? For doing less than zero for our community. How terrible a circumstance for the black community to make this unholy allegiance. To share a fraudulently conjured, self serving common ground with such a disgraceful animal of selfish repute? Remember the background of this trial, just two years removed from the Rodney King injustice, the coup de grâce validation of the black community’s time and memorial exasperation, on primetime television. Try and imagine for a moment, the horror, and helplessness that the black community in Los Angeles must have felt when those bad apple cops were aquitted? You saw the video. Screw ‘context’, how would you feel if you were black? Frustrated much? By 1994 the black community, especially in Los Angeles, was searching for any pen with enough black ink to begin writing the letter ‘J’ on any appeal brief marked ‘justice’. If you’ve never thought about it before, try to imagine how you might feel if you truly believed that the society you live in didn’t value your humanity. That the persons whose charge it is to ‘protect and serve’ you were routinely abusive at best (I’m being polite). Imagine living in a neighborhood where you’ve either seen and/or been victim of, police misconduct and brutality. Please, try and imagine for a moment that I’m not exaggerating for effect…How would you feel? That was the available social pretext for O.J. Simpson to make an end run into in 1995.
What cruel irony that a black man who never wanted to be associated with the black community at large, who rarely if ever had to face the rank injustice and abuse that so many of us have had to face over the years…we allow back into our community, so that he can save his own selfish, murderous ass, and we can cheer because we finally won some rotten apple with the word ‘justice’ carved into it backwards? We were blind. I’m honestly not sure which is worse, the virulently poor, desperate circumstance that the black community finds itself in with relation to the system of ‘law and order’? Or the fact that Orenthal James Simpson got a free ride in the front of our bus without ever having seen the back of it. Everytime I see cutaway footage of my people, black people, cheering for O.J.’s acquittal, on that October 3rd day back in 1995, I literally want to vomit. Honestly, white America…it wasn’t our fault. Not really anyway, you can add ‘master manipulator’ to Simpson’s dosier.
If you haven’t actually seen the crime scene photos, and have the stomach for it, take a good look at them. That is Lucifer’s handiwork. It exposes the kind of cold, calculated savagery that some ‘men’ are capable of. It is also the tragic, final, expected outcome when the virulent scourge of domestic violence is left unchecked. When it’s tolerated, and allowed to express it’s true malignant form in its entirety. How awful. After 20 years, I actually feel like I know Nicole Brown, and Ronald Goldman, although clearly, I’ve never met them. I guess that’s a testament to their respective families, the prosecution team, and filmmakers using their art form to visualize, and express what is often to difficult to speak. I cannot presume to know what it feels like to lose a family member in such a degenerate, wasteful, and unnecessary way. Just like I shudder at the living nightmare it must have been for them to witness the obvious perpetrator of such brutal savagery, walk free. My god. As ‘fate’, and/or ‘karma’ would have it, the bastard they used to call ‘The Juice’ ended up behind bars eventually. I’m just here to tell you that as an African-American man who cheered that day for O.J….I feel injured. In retrospect I think that many African-Americans of good will and decency probably feel the same way.
Perhaps the O.J. Simpson Double Murder case was the ‘Trial of the Century’. It’s been over twenty years and domestic violence is still with us, although the lights are far more bright, people less inclined to ignore, and perhaps a victim’s courage is a bit stronger. Police misconduct, brutality and the inequities of the justice system are still with the black community, although the lights are brighter, with both police and community, more vigilant. The conversation exists and is not as easily dismissed. Racism is still with us, although not as virulent, and overt. It will always exist in some form or another. The hope is that it continues to weaken as generations pass. Celebrity is still with us, although enough of the facade has fallen to reveal that there is an actual human being inside, with the same flaws, capable of the same vice(s), and miserable shortcomings that all human beings can suffer, even the unspeakable.
Today, I can say that I’m proud that I can look back to the 1995 person I was and reflect on my growth. If for nothing else, I have Orenthal James Simpson to thank for that. The problem is that my level of profound noxious disgust for that man prevents me from giving him credit for anything. I’ll let God sort out his soul, whatever is left of it…
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Ralphael Prepetit / Editor in Chief / www.TheIdiotsGuides.com