A couple of years earlier Los Angeles, a hotbed of events related to race, was the scene of the above event. An event as divisive as the whole OJ thing.
An event which eventually lead to this:
African-Americans were still reeling from that disgraceful blow to our collective humanity when this OJ thing got underway. There had been riots in cities across the country that dark day, but LA’s had got the most attention because it lasted the longest. I mean, New York is a powder keg. Always has been and probably always will be. But, when the verdict had come down the violence was kept to a minimum for some reason. Maybe we were busy watching the folks in LA go ape-shit.
I know I was.
While it didn’t snap my mind, as it had done to many blacks, that verdict had broken my heart. And I’d allowed it to re-confirm all the things I’d been raised to believe about America and about white people. That they were, for the most part, evil, and had so much power that they could turn a cut-and-dried videotaped desecration of the laws they’ve instituted into a parlor game.
I was enraged that day!Utterly humiliated. I mean, there I was thinking that finally there would be a reckoning, that people across the country, around the world, having seen with their own eyes the hate and lawlessness practiced by those tasked to enforce the laws that black folks have been enduring on a regular basis in ghettos across the US their entire lives…Finally, finally, people would see! See us, see them, maybe even see themselves…
Yeah…I dream big, don’t I?
Instead, the Press Release the acquittal of those officers sent out to the nation and to the world would read: “don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten that niggers are niggers, and we know how to treat niggers!”
NWA had it right, didn’t they?
So did PE:
I remember when I first heard what NWA was spitting over there on the West Coast. Part of me LOVED it: the anger, the profanity, the recklessness, the rawness, the fuckyouitiveness, the audacity! The audacity to say what many of us felt, in the language we used amongst ourselves. I was proud of them! It was inspired, and I was inspired.
The other part of me…the part that loved Hip Hop and what the artist of the day had done with it, actually thought NWA was a bit over the top, designed to draw fire. It was uncouth, lacked the refinement, the subtlety necessary to get the point across, to engage society in positive constructive debate…I knew, they knew, everybody knew, that the media would focus on the manner more than the message.
I thought (while bopping my head to Dr. Dre’s slamming ass beats): now, come on fellas, this is no way to go about affecting change…nothing will improve as a result of your lyrical assault…nothing at all…all you’re doing is making them happy by making yourselves an easy target for a media lynching, making things worse for the artists out here trying to get things done. Look at all the achievements Martin Luther King was able to accomplish through non-violent speech and non-violent protest. MLK would never say Fuck the Police, now would he? He didn’t have to say it. His actions spoke for him, and loudly. Police would tell him if he marches in their city they’d teach him a lesson. He didn’t say fuck you! He just fucked them! He didn’t get all inflammatory with his remarks. He just went ahead and marched anyway. And the whole country got to see on the news what animalsshitkickers can be, with their clubs and dogs and hoses. He sacrificed himself, and inspired thousands in the doing, black and white, to do the same. Who do you think you’re gonna inspire with that rabble rousing bombastic complaining you’re doing?
Yada yada yada…but they had it right!
Then, OJ comes along.
I was never a big OJ fan. I wasn’t into football then and so he was just this guy with a famous name pimping rental cars…and embarrassing himself in films like Naked Gun.
But they had it in for him…a rich nigger. A famous nigger. Not a Mandingo, nor an Iceberg Slim, but sporting himself a fine ass white woman nonetheless, who turns up gruesomely murdered along with the guy she was seeing.
Yeah. They wanted him bad! At least I felt so.
And, they just knew they had him. That low-speed chase in the Bronco- his suicide run- pretty much served as a confession as far as they were concerned.
But, the more they wanted him, the more I wanted him to walk! I had no faith in the blindness of American justice. At least not as it’s been administered against blacks.
And when I saw OJ all I saw was a strong black man, with the means (meaning loot) to hire himself the best legal representation money can buy, and put his cut-and-dried, guilty as the day is long, black face right in the face of the same corrupt, biased system that 2 years earlier had spat and laughed in the face of Black America and set those racist bastards in uniform free.
Did Simpson say,” please don’t hang me massah…I’se be a good nigger”? No, not quite. Did he say, “Fuck you, yo’ Annah! And yo’ justice, too! After you sentence this nigger and throw away the key, you can kiss my black ass”? Nope, he didn’t go that route, either.
I think he said something like, “I beg your pardon, America, but it’s your corrupt police force, with redneck racist in its upper echelon calling the shots, so un-balanced by their hate and so accustomed to screwing people with no legal recourse that they can’t even conduct an investigation without unnecessarily fouling it up with their institutionalized railroading techniques that’s the real villain here, if you don’t mind me saying. Not me, your honor. I’m as innocent as a Kennedy would be in my position.”
America watched as true American-style justice was served. A justice system where blacks have found themselves constantly under-represented in the court rooms and over-represented in the penitentiary. A penal system that would be more representative of the general population if it weren’t for the white privilege and economic inequality resulting from centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and racist policies designed to keep blacks under-privileged and at just such a disadvantage. Most inmates are there simply because they couldn’t afford a lawyer like Johnnie Cochran, a professional at raising reasonable doubt, uncovering mishandling of evidence in laboratories, exposing circumstantial evidence for what it is; who could stand tall and respected before a jury and spit lyrics like, “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit” and make that shit stick!
The travesty that is the criminal justice system had worked disproportionately in favor of the affluent (which means almost exclusively white) so long that it was shocked, rocked to its very foundation, when an affluent black man (accused of savagely killing not one but two white people) actually made it work for him. It was as thick a glob of unscrupulous mucus in the face as the verdict that sparked the LA riots was.
Nicole who? Ronald who? Honestly, I didn’t invest much emotion in what happened to the victims. Sheeeeet! That kinda shit happens constantly in the hood! Innocent people, randomly, meet their maker at the hands of cold blooded killers on a regular basis. One of my mother’s best friends was found chopped up in pieces in a bathtub in her home, Scarface-style. It barely made the papers in New York. No ones raises a clamor over these things because the victims were poor and black and probably so were the killers.
But, this case stunk of race and class and privilege and corruption, and put all of that on trial for all Americans to see, on TV, every day and night for damn near a year.
This was impossible not to get emotionally vested in. They called it the trial of the century. I don’t know about that. But it was certainly a wake-up call, an Espresso enema up the ass of America.
My job, at the time, was at a company where what happened in the media directly impacted our ability to conduct business. Big news stories like this one bumped PR stories which were our bread and butter. In our work areas we had lots of televisions and thus every day we were all over the news, praying this OJ thing would just go away, knowing it wouldn’t, and digesting every bit of it.
I had to sit at my desk and listen to my mostly white co-workers talk about how this monster (meaning OJ, not the American justice system) needs to be lynched. I kept my honest opinion on this matter to myself. At least in the office I did. I knew it was too controversial to discuss with anyone white. Even my best buddy- a white guy- I held my tongue with, for the most part. It was bad enough everyone was looking to me to affirm that how they felt about OJ had nothing to do with race but the simple fact that all the evidence pointed to him, “…and he looks like a killer, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, don’t you think so?” This was from an Italian girl who sat near me for years.
“Well, of course you’re innocent until proven guilty, but….”
“But, come on, Loco! You know that man killed that poor woman! My god! Just look at him!”
And, I’d look at Orenthal James Simpson on the TV on our desk. This ex-athlete, ex-husband and father, endorsement machine, movie star, hero in many circles of the black community, living the American dream, strutting around the courtroom, trying to look meek, confident that one day he’ll breathe air free of this accusation…and I’d watch the TV station’s incessant insertions of footage of his estate (known as Rockingham for chrissakes, which far as I was concerned, for its pretentiousness and British-feel, meant “guilty” as sin) with his driveways, swimming pool and tennis court…you know, just in case we didn’t get that this case was about class as well as race.
Of course, he was guilty.
“I’m going to reserve judgment until the verdict is in…” I said, though. “I mean, he was rich enough to hire professionals if he wanted her killed, don’t you think?”
“That psychopath!!! He might be rich but he’s just a bum. A two-bit…” and she bit back the rest of her statement. I knew where it was going though.
There was a lot of that going around in the office.
A nigger is a nigger is a nigger. What’s a nigger with money? A rich nigger. He might live in an opulent estate in Brentwood, his ex-wife driving around in a Ferrari, Limos waiting in one of his driveways to take him to the airport, to fly off first class to make more money endorsing American corporations… but he was still capable of doing the same savage, stupid shit that niggers do in the poorest parts of L.A.: Burning down their own communities, looting local businesses, killing their own people. Making the world a more dangerous place for the Nicoles and Ronalds.
“I don’t care…he’s guilty!” she said eventually.
“Who knows?” I said like I suffered from non-committal-itis.
I’d go home to my people, and that subway ride could’ve been through a wormhole for the difference between what was being said at the office and what was being asserted in my neighborhood among my peeps. Such as:
“Of course that mother fucker did it. But, I sure do admire his gangsta.”
“Damn, that nigga living like that off of Naked Gun movies and rental car ads???”
“Man, what the fuck is wrong with him? Why didn’t he just hire somebody to do that bitch? I mean, any nigga know, once you get large you don’t need to get hands-on anymore. That motherfucker musta took too many hits to the dome piece in the NFL…”
“That mother fucker gonna walk! If I ever get in trouble over some bullshit, best believe I’m uh have me uh Shapiro and a Cochran to keep my black ass outta the pen, too.”
“See, that’s what he get for marrying a white bitch! Nigga deserve to do time just for that!”
“I don’t give a fuck if he did it or not…fuck I care? Ain’t putting no money in my pockets…”
“If he was Joe Namath or Franco Harris and Nicole and Ronald were black, I wonder how this shit would be playing out…can you imagine? Probably not. You seem like one of them guys who think white people could never do no shit like that!”
“Man, if Nicole and Ron were black, the headline woulda been “OJ is a suspect in the killing of some hoe and her pimp.”“Oops sorry, correction: that was his ex-wife, Shaquanna…and her new sugar daddy. Couldn’t make a positive ID cuz of that busted-ass wig!”
to be continued…