Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford
ESPN television recently produced a brilliant documentary on the murder trial of OJ Simpson. I thought I knew OJ but after seeing the documentary, I have concluded that my opinion of him and the trial was rather shallow. The “Juice,” as he is known to many was truly a complex piece of work. He was a great football player and hero to many youngsters. As his talent on the football field was beginning to come to an end, he morphed into a public relations phenomenon. His advertising activities took him to the top of a new game. He was making millions without playing any more football. Movies, sports announcing and a very popular pitchman were now generating serious money. The Hertz Rental Car ad became one of the greatest ads of all time.
It was surprising to most Blacks that OJ lost his identity. OJ became a white man. He no longer circulated in the Hood. His environment was Beverly Hills, Malibu, Brentwood, etc. With that also came his new taste in women. He divorced his Black wife and married a white 19-year-old waitress. Pretty soon his new white in-laws started relying on the revenue that the Juice was making. They had no shame in not working and the Juice took care of all of them.
Living in a colorless society was the fantasy that OJ was in. What a pipe dream! This was Los Angeles with a racial animus that was like no other city. One of the worst police forces in our nation, in regards to racism, is the Los Angeles Police Department. How did it get this way in a very liberal West Coast city? According to Elaine Brown (her book “A Taste of Power”) during the 1930’s Los Angeles was booming in population growth. They had a shortage of policemen and went on a major recruiting project. LAPD noticed at the time that one of the best trained police forces was Houston, Texas. Houston police officers received a $5,000 hiring bonus for joining the LAPD. They came by the thousands and with them was that southern racial animus. This transformed the LAPD into a virtual enemy of Los Angeles Blacks.
OJ’s immense popularity gave him a pass with the LAPD. When the world learned that OJ’s white wife was brutally murdered along with Ron Goldman few suspected the Juice. That quickly changed when the local press showed the world that OJ was a wife abuser (documented by 911 complaints). The LAPD pounced on the “brother.” There was no more whiteness for Mr. Simpson.
Black America can be so forgiving when some of us betray our heritage and race. This was the racist LAPD and most of us decided to believe that OJ was innocent. The documentary showed the actual murder scene. Nicole Simpson (OJ’s wife) was pretty much decapitated. Ron Goldman was repeatedly stabbed. It looked more like ISIS did this. How could the Juice be so violent? Suddenly, the white side of Los Angeles flipped their admiration for the Juice. He became one of the most hated persons to white America.
It probably could have been a slam-dunk murder case. But there were two big developments. OJ hired one of the greatest defense lawyers of all time, Johnnie Cochran. The other development was that the LAPD is clumsy in their investigations. Their reputation of evidence tampering, framing and doctoring the ballistics is notorious. Attorney Cochran had been fighting the LAPD his entire career. Also, Cochran was prepared to “rip” prosecuting attorneys Marcia Clark and Chris Darden. They were no match.
The trial was fully televised and as it dragged on, Los Angeles became very tense. People were fearing that if the verdict was guilty another race riot in the City of Angels was going to be a certainty. The OJ case was turning into a civil rights issue. The Black Panthers started demonstrating. The Fruit of Islam became bodyguards for Johnnie Cochran. Blacks and whites would fiercely debate on evening talk shows. Chris Darden was considered an “Uncle Tom.” The times became tense and depressing.
It didn’t take long into the trial that Mr. Cochran and his team started showing flaws in the police investigation. Missing blood from the vial taken on OJ. The infamous glove that did not fit. Most of all, the racist voice tape filled with the N word by detective Mark Furman started to present doubt to the jury, which was amply filled with Blacks. The Watts Riot and the Rodney King riot left no confidence in the LAPD for Black and brown Los Angeles. Having the venue in downtown LA was a bad idea for the LA prosecutor. In retrospect, the jury was tainted by the reputation of the LAPD. Johnnie Cochran was indeed brilliant.
It didn’t take the jury long to return an innocent verdict. Black LA exploded with joy while the white side of town and across America went into shock. Perhaps it was the greatest trial in history. But all that mattered was the racial animus of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: [email protected].