A woman was murdered, savagely; her throat cut so deeply that she was essentially decapitated.
That tragic fact stands alone in a chaotic mat of emotions, misconceptions, assumptions and history.
I imagine that many White folks think many Black folks are cruel and ignorant: “how could your love a football star, regardless of how impressive his record was, blind you to the overwhelming evidence that O.J. Simpson was involved in Nicole Brown Simpson’s brutal murder?”
But that’s what is so centrally misunderstood: most Black folks don’t give a damn about O.J. Simpson. He was dropped from the Black cookout invitation list long ago. Actually, he had already stopped opening our invitations, even after we told him that Uncle Ray Ray was grilling his famous ribs and Aunt Phe was making the potato salad without the eggs that he loves. Don’t get me wrong, many of us loved him. He was our hero: a tall, handsome, football star from the projects. But, once he gained real success, he walked away and rejected the Black world as so many do (those who equate their level of success with their immersion and acceptance into White America) he wanted nothing to do with us. And while Black folks are the most accepting of all races, if you walk away from us, we will let your ass go without a farewell party and without begging you to stay.
Bye Felicia. Bye Carson. Bye Stacy Dash. Bye Clarence Thomas. Bye-bye O.J.
So, when Black folks sat raptured and watched the White Bronco speeding down Santa Ana highway – most of us were looking on with equal fascination and for the same reason: it was O.J. — a football legend, the handsome man we had seen running through the airport in the Hertz commercials to catch a plane; we never expected to see him speeding down a highway, running from the police. So, understand, at that point we were watching the crumbling of a star (like seeing Britney Spears shave her head or Martin Lawrence naked at an intersection). Black folks weren’t thinking about him being a Black man, until you and your White, racist judicial system quickly and starkly reminded us (and him) that he was, indeed, Black.
We watched how quickly the White public, who had adored him when he was winning games, making tons of money for the NFL and the networks immediately turned on him. We watched how the Brown family, who had accepted O.J’s gifting of Hertz dealerships, college tuitions, homes, fake boobs, cars and careers, immediately called him a monster. We watched how the murder of just one White woman became the obsession of every news station and periodical although Black women are murdered at a dramatically higher rate than White women (African-American women only make up about 13 percent of U.S. women, but comprise about half of female homicide victims — the majority of whom were killed by current of former husbands and boyfriends). We listened to the reports that proved Fuhrman’s racist history, agenda and actions and made clear that he most probably planted evidence. We watched you write, march, petition and obsess over with getting justice for this one White woman- this one White woman who was once married to and presumably murdered by a Black man (don’t suggest that race didn’t cause your ire. Three women are murdered each day by former and current partners. Where is your outrage? Where is your outrage when a White man kills his White wife? Where was your outrage when Casey Anthony got off for killing her 2 year-old daughter). No, Nicole Brown, was presumably killed by a Black man; so she became your cause.
So, he because ours. The case became about race; not O.J. Simpson. O.J. Simpson, ironically, became the face of the Black man in the judicial system: he was persecuted before the trial, he was set-up.
So, if O.J. Simpson was innocent or guilty wasn’t as important to us, Black folks; as the public showing of the inequities of the U.S. legal system – and its history of abusing Black people and particularly Black males. And the outcome proved exactly what we have seen and known for years: justice can be bought. This has been proven again and again by the Kennedy’s, Rockefellers and Carnegies – as well as in millions of lesser known incidents where land was illegitimately taken from Black folks and where white perpetrators of fraud, rape and murder were allowed to get away with the crime. It’s a very simple equation: money (which most Black Americans don’t have as much of) buys justice. It buys lawyers from better schools, with more experience, greater resources and far higher hourly rates. It’s not a system of “justice for all” but rather how much justice you can buy.
That’s why O.J.’s case was so compelling. It was one for the few instances where a Black man had the resources to buy the best defense a person could buy. His “dream team” of Johnny Cochran, Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey and Carl Douglas were every bit as good in their court as Jordan, Bird, Magic and Ewing were on their’s. When Simpson’s Dream Team matched up against Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden –the result was as predictably overwhelming as Team USA vs. Angola. The outcome was never in doubt, the only question was simply how large the margin would be.
O.J. got what he paid for, and is free. And for many, it was a vindication – not so much for our feelings about O.J. himself – but rather our feelings for Khalief Browder and the hundreds of thousands of other Black people that suffered when the playing field had been tilted against them over the past two centuries.