Understanding the Negro: What made the Black Community Support O.J. Simpson, a Black Man Who Denied his Blackness?

by S.A. Prince

“The Juice is Loose,” a fragile elderly black woman was screaming on the television. I was young at the time, too young to grasp O.J. Simpson, racism, Rodney King and police brutality. Those things were mystique to me. I was more concerned about Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and drinking the chocolate milk and left behind soggy Chocolate Pebbles out of my cereal bowl. But, even at such a young age I remember the fallout from the O.J. Simpson verdict. Not Guilty.

In my predominantly segregated South Chicago neighborhood we celebrated. We all celebrated. It was biblically glorious like the return of the prodigal son, or the second coming of Jesus and subsequent rapture. I had no idea why everyone was so happy, but they were, and all of us children joined in.

But, we were wrong…very wrong.

ESPN recently ran a five part documentary series called “OJ: Made in America,” rehashing the life of football legend Orenthal James Simpson and his involvement in the death of Nicole Brown, his ex-wife. At the same time Los Angeles was imploding due to systemic racial tensions that estranged the relationship between blacks and the government. ESPN’s documentary (can be found on their website) paralleled these two concordant and defining realities that plagued not only Los Angeles, but the entire country in the early 1990s.

The People of the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson:

How did that jury find O.J. Simpson not guilty?

You hear people talk in the hood and on the street corner. They all say the same thing. “He did it. He killed that white girl.” It broadsides me every time I hear that, because as an adult I look back on the evidence 20 years later and agree. How did we get it so wrong back then?

Why did the black community stand by O.J. Simpson, a black man who denied his blackness, especially when the evidence was so damning?

O.J. Simpson did everything he could to separate himself from his blackness, stopping just short of bleaching his skin. The documentary pointed this out with flawless accuracy. O.J. Simpson was not Muhammad Ali. He did not stand up for the black community. How could a black man who the evidence so clearly condemned, how could he who rejected the black community so vehemently to the point where he did not see himself as black, and referred to blacks as “niggers,” how did he garner the support of the black community?

That speaks volumes. It screams at me to the level of distrust that black Americans had for the system. No jury of blacks, and there were eight blacks on the jury, was going to convict O.J. Simpson. It was inconceivable that he would be convicted in Los Angeles, not in the 1990s, not after Rodney King. Move that trial to any other city in the United States and diversify the jury, and O.J. Simpson is found guilty. That jury got caught up in the moment, and how could they not?

The black community’s support of O.J. Simpson had nothing to do with O.J., but had everything to do with black discontent for the system. O.J. Simpson was a symbolic of black community’s sentiments. It wasn’t O.J Simpson on trial. It was black America on trial.

It was black America versus The System.

Black Americans didn’t trust the system then, and they don’t trust it now, and why would they?

When has the system ever empowered black Americans?

We could probably count the number of occurrences on one hand:

  1. The abolishment of slavery.
  2. The right to vote.
  3. Desegregation? No, don’t dare say desegregation. Desegregation wasn’t empowering. As a result of desegregation blacks did have more access to resources, but they had to trade in their identity, and black Americans still have to trade in their identity and culture today.

If a black American wants to excel in the corporate and business world then they have to “buy-in” to the system, an economic, judicial, and cultural system set up by the white majority. In order to have access to the benefits of this system blacks had to conform, leaving their cultural identity behind or knowingly suppressing it.

Don’t believe me? Just go talk to any blacks working in corporate America where they likely make up only one to two percent of the total white collar workforce.

The system is not designed to empower black America. Let’s be honest about that. At the same time, IT IS NOT THE SYSTEM’S JOB TO EMPOWER BLACK AMERICA. IT IS BLACK AMERICA’S RESPONSIBILITY ALONE TO EMPOWER THEMSELVES. That’s a harsh reality.

BECAUSE THE SYSTEM DOES NOT EMPOWER BLACK AMERICA, BLACK AMERICA DOES NOT TRUST THE SYSTEM AND REBELS AGAINST IT.

This is exactly why black America stood behind a fraud like O.J. Simpson, and why they will do it again for any black who takes on the system. Here are black figures who the black community sympathize with:

  • Chris Dorner, the former LAPD officer who went on a killing spree targeting officers. He took lives, but still some people in black America stood by him.
  • Michael Vick, who was involved in a dog fighting ring received sympathy by much of black America.
  • Bill Cosby, who has yet to be convicted of anything, but has had numerous women come out against him.
  • Mike Brown is still being sympathized with.
  • Kelly who was found not guilty of child porn, regardless of the evidence.

Rarely do we condemn our own. Don’t make it about morality though, because Black Americans don’t see it as a moral issue.

Have you ever seen “Free Pookie” t-shirts being worn, a conjecture from members of the black community in an attempt to justify the release of a convicted criminal? There is nothing more debase than a Stockholm syndrome like justification for the release of a miscreant whose behavior, and mere existence is to the detriment of your community. But, in the black community we are loyal to our own, even when they have been staunchly immoral. There is only one caveat: that said black figure must be taking on the “oppressive White-supremacist” system.

The amount of support a black figure receives from the black community is directly related to the size of their platform. Pookie, who got caught selling drugs will receive less support from the black community than O.J. Simpson. The larger the stage, the more relatable the black figure becomes.

There is an unspoken agreement among black people:

I may not like you. You could even be my enemy, but if the “oppressive White-supremacist” system comes against you, you will have my support.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The enemy of black America has been the system, including but not limited to the laws, the courts, and the police. Is the destruction of the black community the sole purpose of every judge, cop, or law? Of course not, but it’s the idea that these entities do exist for that reason which binds the black community to popular figures like O.J. Simpson. #StopSnitchin

Will the black community’s relationship with the system ever change?

Yes, it can change. This will be directly tied to black representation within the police force and among political representatives. You can’t have one without the other though. Hence, Freddy Gray and the Baltimore riots. As black representation increases in both areas, so does the black voice, and the black voice must increase to satiate any inferiority complex that the black community may experience. The black community needs to feel empowered, and until they do their approach to the powerful will remain the same.

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