Here’s the thing. We either live in a land of laws or we don’t. By the law, and through the malfeasance of the law (racist cop, planted evidence etc), OJ Simpson over a decade ago was found not guilty of the murder of his wife.
Now you can have your opinions on that, but at the end of the day the case was not proved. There was messy, muddled doubt.
And yet in the nearly 15 years (can you believe it’s been that long?) since, not a day has gone by where OJ has not been subjected to a continuous media trial. Oj, his children, his friends.
I think of those kids a lot, and what these years must have been for them. Imagine for a second that OJ is not guilty, can you imagine what we owe them?
What the world owes them?
And imagine for a second he is, and we still owe them just as much, because the media has taken a private tragedy, and made it into a public crown of thorns for these kids to wear. A crown of thorns disproportionate to the crime.
In that same time we have had and continue to have serial killings, bombings, mass murders, heinous acts beyond the number, and yet the media chooses to offer disproportionate coverage and caustic commentary on this case.
Anyone’s murder is a tragedy, but people of color get killed every single day and it usually doesn’t even make the newspaper much less the television. And it definitely isn’t a topic of conversation for 15 years.
Yet here we have a famous Black personality, and a dead white Woman. If his wife, who was murdered was Black, given all the mysterious circumstances, would we still be talking about this case 15 years later?
I don’t think so.
Would we have been talking about it then? The around the clock coverage? No. We wouldn’t have. It would have been a media flash in the pan at best.
Instead of what it became, and what it is…
A very public lynching.
A media led lynching, that I really feel had less to do with a dead White woman, then making an example out of a successful live Black man.
I’m saying the mindsets that led to the unspeakable demise of 14 year old Emmett Till, going on 54 years ago, for whistling at a white woman are still very much alive in the actions of people who dispense the law, people who cover the law, and people who preside over the law. And such mindsets color the impartial dispensing of justice.
(A brief aside: To show you how much these mindsets are still with us, the grave of Emmett Till was recently defiled. Here, this year in 2008, not in 1955; as if not enough was done to him in life, even in death there are twisted things, old hates of the fathers, that still inhabit empty sons)
So here is the thing.
I will never side with the public lynching of a person of color. Not OJ, not Wesley Snipes, not Marion Jones, not Michael Vick. Because the common thread I’m seeing… is that the rabid media coverage of the “fall” of famous people of color, is disproportionate to their supposed crimes.
People were discussing Michael Vick at the same time a renegade President was blowing the hell out of half the hemisphere, shoveling people into concentration camps, and ripping up the bill of rights, ripping up your right to be.
But you know what , the media wanted no part of that. They wanted no part of true, and staggering crimes. So they create a blood sport, a feeding frenzy around Michael Vick. Who really was not important enough, given what was happening in the world and the nation, to be taking up my news time.
He was a diversion, from real issues, and I resent that. He was something to keep the rabble busy, while real issues that affect people’s lives go unreported and unchallenged.
The courts have become the new Roman Coliseums and people of color are once more the Christians being fed to the lions, for the sake of keeping a dumb mob occupied.
So with yesterday’s sentencing of OJ, after almost 15 years of riding a man’s every turn, yet another Roman mob is appeased.
So I am not saying there should not be a fitting response for crime, but I am saying determining guilt and innocence and appropriate punishment becomes difficult when both sides bring differing levels of respect to the table.
I do not believe in all white Juries (increasingly the fashion), and white judges, being able to offer anything close to justice… to people of color. Just like I do not believe in the Israelis being able to, with parity or humanity, occupy Palestine.
I believe an occupying force is always a destructive thing, and justice and law can only be cultivated from within a group, and can not be imposed from without.
Not long. And Not well.
What begins to happen is under pressure, you create resistance. And the more pressure you apply, the more resistance you create.
People in this nation are increasingly under pressure. Pressure by an unjust system. And the ramifications of pressure finally released… is not good.
And too often a still very Jim Crow system, masquerading as integration when what it really is, is oversight, exacerbates the problem. Deepens it. Because at least in the days of Jim Crow, people of color had their own news outlets, their own farms, their own markets.
Now we rely on a system of talking heads, that no one trusts… to dispense justice.
I don’t think there is any Justice in yesterday’s sentencing of OJ Simpson. Malice? yes. Vindictiveness? yes. The particulars of the case for which they want to give him prison time, are quite patently absurd. What he was really convicted for and sentenced for… was a Murder he was found Not Guilty of, over a decade ago.
Did OJ kill his wife?
I do not know. A court of law said no. And unfortunately there was too much tampering of the evidence by the LAPD to argue with that verdict.
So I don’t know if he killed his wife. But I don’t know if a lot of people committed crimes. I don’t know the crimes of my neighbors or the crimes of those of you reading this. And my world keeps turning.
But by the rules of the game, the game of law, he should not be taking up my TV time anymore.
But like I said, it’s been a vendetta to get him, for going on 15 years.
I can not speak on OJ’s crimes, I can not see them. And I can not see yours. But I grew up on OJ Simpson’s good. There was no more loved personality, than this Football player turned actor. I’ve never liked the American past time of turning on our idols, relishing their fall.
I don’t know how to turn on someone I like, not easy. Not while there is doubt. And I do not know, know will I ever learn, how to relish a person’s fall.
I wrote the following back in 1994, in response to someone’s attack on an even-handed article about the just arrested OJ Simpson. It was published in the paper, and I think it is still valid:
“—— is disgusted because in a hero-less time we seek to remember our heroes. And whatever else OJ was or is, in his public life he was a hero. And if ——– has never committed the evils of OJ Simpson, neither has she ever come close to equaling the good. And in the final analysis she is unequal to the task of judging him.
—— must understand that none of us are saints and most are sinners, and the best we can do in this life is hope the good we do outweighs the evil. I don’t know if OJ Simpson is guilty or innocent…. If guilty I weep for the man OJ Simpson has become, but will always remember this accused wife beater, this accused murderer, as a bolt of lightning rushing down the field breaking tackles, breaking records. I will always remember him as a man who for one moment in time gave us all something to cheer about.”
So I personally would like to see the sentence appealed as the punishment OJ Simpson is getting, is disproportionate to the stated crime. He is being sentenced for a crime for which he has already been found, Not guilty.
And that is not… justice.