By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Life is strange. How in the world could O.J. Simpson become the standard bearer for racial justice? How could this unlikely personality characterize the gross chasm between how Black and White Americans are treated in our courts and prisons?
And yet with what the media relentlessly tabs, “The Trial of the Century,” this reluctant African American fell dead center in one of the major test cases in U.S. history. And the craziest thing is he won – the murder trial, that is; to the euphoria of society’s oppressed and the endless exasperation of the privileged.
Even those who believe in their hearts that O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman have to admit the Los Angeles police were more like the Keystone Cops as they botched the investigation with compromised evidence, tainted crime scenes, inconsistency and perjury. What a mess.
It was as though they too had “Free O.J” tattooed on their chest beneath their formal courtroom attire.
After Simpson walked out of court a free man after his earth-shaking acquittal, I remember writing that this should be a wake-up call for the brother, an epiphany, a realization of his ethnic reality.
As I prepared for the Million Man March in Washington D.C. following the historic verdict, I mentioned to a friend accompanying me to the event that it would be SEISMIC if O.J. made a surprise appearance, took the stage, cupped the microphone and sought atonement from Black America for his estrangement.
It would have been the transformation of the century; a global inspiration to men of color. It would have been a watershed moment that well could have redirected the momentum of Black America – for such a high-profile individual to testify realization of the worth of our identity – our strength, our character.
But that was a pipe dream. O.J. was likely somewhere playing golf in his pledged commitment to hunt down “the real killers.” That magnanimous possibility was lost. And so was any hope that O.J. would experience an awakening after his travails.
He returned to the white circles in which he felt eminently more comfortable; to the old habits and the same tired oversized ego that misled him into thinking his (expletive) didn’t stink.
So what happens. He lands in jail again after trying to steal back his own memorabilia at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel! The men who accompanied him with guns were each sentenced to 27 months. O.J. got 33 years. Only an imbecile believes that the sentence wasn’t a proxy punishment for the death of his ex-wife and her friend.
After serving nine years too many, last week his parole board said he should be set free in October. Once again, white Americans are throwing tantrums while Blacks are doing flips. On casual observation, it looks like love for O.J. Look again.
Most African Americans didn’t even like O.J. Simpson in the 90s before his celebrated legal ordeal. He was the quintessential sellout – the poster child for assimilation. His portrait should’ve been in the Encyclopedia next to “Uncle Tom.” That hasn’t changed.
“The Juice” really never cared what Black folks thought. You couldn’t shame him by accusing him of denying his heritage. He wore his illusion of crossover ethnicity like a badge of honor. Talk about reverse cultural appropriation – O.J. is the same WASP wannabe. That hasn’t changed either.
The frustration of Whites is that a Black man shouldn’t get away with what they have gotten away with since the birth of the nation.
The frustration of Black Americans is that whites so seldom experience that sense of overt injustice and writhing despair indigenous to people of color that they can’t imagine the angst, pain, paralysis of hope.
Unlike most diseases, when it comes to racism, no one is willing to diagnosis or encourage research for the cure. So therein lies the unending enigma – with no remedy in sight.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].