When I reflect on my feelings about when OJ Simpson was charged with the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, I feel ashamed.
I remember the trial vividly. In my early 20’s, working in a medical office in Santa Monica while going to college, I remember the endless conversations about OJ, the defense team, the racist cop on the crime scene, and allegations of a vast conspiracy to frame a widely loved American football icon in a modern day lynching.
I remember my secret thoughts at the time as the news unfurled on television–from the freeway chase and Simpson’s erratic behavior before he turned himself in, right up until the visible smirk he had on his face when the jury acquitted him of all charges.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I felt happy for Simpson at the time. His victory was ‘our’ victory…wasn’t it? Karmic justice for all the times black men in particular have been falsely accused of crimes against “the poor, innocent and pure white woman.” The victory gave many in the black collective a sense of smugness too–a finger in the eye to a legal system that often bends the rules based on how many zeros you have in your bank account. We raised this man as an icon of power of the black collective, and we rejoiced in how widespread community support and solidarity (and a hunk of $$) could ensure that a black man could get scott clean from bloody murder. We literally danced in the streets. Rappers wrote songs to gloat, and the pain the Brown and Goldman family felt from losing their loved ones in such a brutal way was a “non-fucking factor.”
The Goldman family…
(tears of anguish)
And then there was us…
(those were happy tears.)
Two decades later, I realize how wrong my thinking was. It is my opinion that OJ Simpson was not framed for murder. He is, indeed, a sociopathic and abusive man who got away with murder. That man repeatedly beat the shit out of his wife and terrorized her regularly. It’s not a stretch that a man of his size and athletic ability could take out two people in a blind and jealous rage, and those gloves didn’t fit most likely because his defense team instructed him to take salt pills to ensure water retention and swelling of his hands. His hand was cut. His blood was there. I know with little doubt that this man is a murderer and a really, really bad man.
Just look at that smirk…
And I’m ashamed that I supported this man because I thought it was my duty as a black woman to stick by our most precious icons right or wrong, good or downright evil. Blind, unquestioning and one-sided loyalty was a given. But in retrospect and hindsight, I know how misdirected my loyalty was, and how beholden I felt at the time to stand and fight for a man simply because he was a black, handsome football legend. The unsaid directive in the community was this: We stand by our legends no matter what. No. Matter. What. To have questioned Simpson’s responsibility to this murder was to be accused of being disloyal, an Uncle Tom, and a traitor to the race. Black women lined up to defend their fallen, handsome star, despite well documented evidence that he not only physically abused his first wife, who was black, and divorced her to marry a white woman (a truly BIG deal for black women at the time) that he also ruthlessly abused. We black women didn’t care about all that little stuff. It was about the big picture. It was about standing behind this man during his hours of need, because if he “wins” so does our collective. Surely we would get our “reward” after all the fanfare was said and done, right? Surely this rich and handsome black man would ‘come home’ and learn to error of his ways–dating all those white women and forgetting about his people and reroute his path…right?
Ummm….no. Meet Christine Prody, subsequent girlfriend of OJ Simpson for 13 years after the infamous verdict.
Not surprisingly, Prody also claims Simpon physically abused her, and he would often threaten to kill her.
But to point out the fact that OJ Simpson went back to his very white life after he was done needing black people to lionize him would bring on accusations of black women just being bitter. He needed us when he needed us, and went back to doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was done.
Unfortunately this cycle of expectations of blind loyalty from the black collective (in particular black women) are still firmly in play.
But I got wise and hip to the game, and I’m glad many other women like me have followed suit.
Do you remember what you were doing and thinking during and after the OJ Simpson murder trial? Do you feel different now than you did then?