Once recognized as one of the most famous running backs in the NFL, Orenthal James “O. J.” Simpson, without warning, changed the game for Black America. On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown, his ex-wife, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found murdered at Brown’s Los Angeles condominium. O.J. was charged with the murders, but acquitted of all criminal charges in what was called the “Trial of the Century” on Oct. 3, 1995. Although many doubted Simpson’s innocence, they celebrated the victory of the famed football star. Reportedly, the NFL player known as “The Juice” won the trial based on the race card. Is Black America still paying for the sins of O.J. Simpson?
The Simpson trial was one of the most watched events in television history with over 150 million people tuning in for the verdict. Was Simpson Black America’s hero? Truth is, many within the African-American community were not at all concerned about Simpson as an individual. They celebrated what he represented to them. The former NFL celebrity was viewed as a type of vindication for family and friends who had previously been screwed by a system void of justice. Many Simpson celebrants equated The Juice with every black person that had been beaten up by the criminal justice system without a fair trial.
Black Americans cheered because the token black man who was no longer considered a part of the African-American community had screwed White America. Prior to this, Simpson was loved by the “opposing” race and viewed as nearly perfect; he was not a troublemaker, not the cause of racial trepidation, not controversial and not like the others. He was different, and somehow, better than the black community. This was the delicious irony of his victory. The perfect guy who they loved had turned the tables on them and vindicated his original team. The question remains, “Is Black America still paying for Simpson’s crime?”
With the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed the unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, surely the tab would have been paid in full. Zimmerman and Simpson seemed to be a perfect trade-off. Even though O.J. was acquitted for the murders of Brown and Goldman, he could not seem to get his life together. After Zimmerman’s acquittal, he seemed to follow the footsteps of O.J. by remaining in trouble with the law. No, he did not have a celebrity status before firing the shot that took the life of a teen in his prime, but his actions quickly earned him an infamous position in history. Maybe if he was a bigshot prior to the murder, his acquittal would have sufficed. At this stage, who knows?
What we do know is that far too many young black men have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement since Trayvon’s murder. It is as if Black America is still paying for Simpson’s sins. What will it take to level the playing field and regain a status that believes “lives matter” in the black community?
In 2006, adding insult to injury, the former NFL player announced intent of a “soon to be released” book titled, If I Did It, as a hypothetical rendition of the murders. A few copies of the book leaked online before public outrage led to the publication’s cancelation. In 2007, as part of a civil case against Simpson, a Florida court gave the rights to the book to the Goldman family.
Later that year, the former sports commentator was arrested in Las Vegas during a failed robbery attempt to steal his own sports memorabilia at gunpoint. For the charges associated with the crimes, O.J. was found guilty and sentenced to 33 years behind bars. Many believed the harsh sentencing he received was due to the unfair acquittal for Brown and Goldman’s murder. Simpson is currently being housed at the Lovelock Correctional Facility to serve out his sentence. One would think or, at least, hope, that 33 years in prison, Zimmerman acquittal and the many lives which have been taken unjustly by police would satisfy the tab for Black America.
The African-American community was wrong to celebrate a verdict they really did not believe was just. However, it is not hard to understand how this same community would mistrust the LAPD given its history, at the time, of planting evidence and maintaining an overarching theme of unjust treatment with the black race. However, none of this justifies people rooting for a criminal just because of the color of his skin. Here it is decades later and the question remains, “Is Black America still paying for O. J. Simpson?”
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
ABC News: O.J. Simpson Trial: Where Are They Now?
Guardian Liberty Voice: Is Zimmerman Following the Footsteps of O. J. Simpson?
Top Image Courtesy of Brad Lewis Photography – Flickr License
Inline Image Courtesy of Chris Waldeck – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Charles LeBlanc – Flickr License