Saturday, October 4, 2008
Boyce Watkins on OJ Simpson
I sat in the airport early this morning, waiting for a flight to NYC. Besides a surprisingly fun trip away for the weekend, I also get a chance to appear on my favorite network, Al Jazeera International. This is no disrespect to CNN, but I have to be honest. Al Jazeera has a great global audience, and the news is actually intelligent. We Americans have become allergic to truly educational news, and have fallen in love with the worthless sound bite. On Al Jazeera they actually ENJOY hearing me as a scholar, and my being a Black Financial expert is not some kind of oxymoron. On CNN and Fox, on the other hand, you are as likely to see a Black Financial expert as you are to see Sarah Palin getting a PhD at an HBCU.
As I sat working on my laptop, I noticed that good ol OJ is back in the news. It appears that White America is going to get what it's been praying for since that fateful day in 1995: That "horrendous negro" is finally going to prison. I noticed the chuckles from the other people in the lounge as the verdict was announced. I listened to my cab driver tell me that "it's about damn time they got that guy."
I clearly remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the first major OJ verdict was announced 13 years ago. I was walking across campus, and I ran into a buddy of mine, who happened to be a White male. He was FURIOUS, as were the rest of the students on my campus, The University of Kentucky. If you don't know much about The University of Kentucky, just picture a campus created and run by borderline Klansmen for over 100 years that is just now figuring out that Black students can do more than play basketball.
I remember the outrage being expressed that this "monster" had gotten away with "killing that lovely and beautiful woman." Give me a damn break. Here are my thoughts on OJ:
1) I've never liked OJ. I didn't like him before the first trial and I don't like him now. He has, throughout his career, shown very little respect for the Black community, and I found it disturbing that he and Rodney King became symbols for Black civil rights in the early 1990s.
2) OJ and his wife were, based on the evidence and for lack of a better word, "coke heads". Neither of them were the pure and perfect human-beings some of us believed them to be. Those people who think there is no chance that OJ killed his wife need to think twice about that conclusion.
3) I believe OJ knows what happened to his wife, but I don't think he killed them. If you stab someone, you're not just going to have microscopic blood samples on your shoes. You're going to have blood on your face, in your hair, up your nose, and all over the place. I don't think he did it, but I think he was right there when it happened. Whether he was complicit or framed, we will never know.
4) It is not out of the question that this was a drug kill. Again, when people are so deeply involved in drugs, you don't know what you're going to get. Washed up actors work as drug mules all the time, and I always wondered how a man receiving just a few thousand dollars here and there for endorsement deals and cameos could afford to maintain expensive homes and an expensive drug habit.
5) Mark Furman's perjury and the fact that the murder glove didn't fit show clearly that there was reasonable doubt. If you believe in the American justice system, you HAD to let OJ go. It's not about what you THINK happened, it's about what the evidence SHOWS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. The concept of reasonable doubt is fundamental to our justice system. Mark Furman alone created reasonable doubt that he and the LAPD could be trusted.
6) The lynch mob mentality shown by America after the OJ trial is nothing new. All throughout history, most Black men believed to have committed a crime were not given fair access to justice. If the alleged crime was atrocious enough, people would hunt him down in the middle of the night and kill him. The remnants of this mob mentality showed itself clearly during the mob mentality exhibited after the OJ trial.
7) If OJ had killed a Black woman, the trial would have not have been the global sensation it was. There is something that lies deep within the psyche of many Americans that becomes frightened and angry over the idea of a big, evil, dirty Black man killing a pure, sweet and innocent White woman. That's just a fact. But here's another fact: Black men are not evil and dirty, and not all White women are as pure as the driven snow. Neither OJ nor his wife were angelic in their behavior, and it appears that there is a reason they chose to be together in the first place.
At the end of the day, the punishment must fit the crime. OJ is not a man I respect. But there is a strong correlation between the treatment of OJ Simpson and other prominent Black male athletes: Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest, Barry Bonds and Michael Vick. The "Black Males are Monsters" mentality shows itself all over America, which is why the prisons are full of Black men, why Black boys are 5 times more likely to be placed in special education and why my university treats my Black Public Scholarship as if I am some kind of menace to society. It's all part of the same package, and nothing new in America.