The Implications of O.J. Simpson Verdict

LeoCasey at LeoCasey at
Sun Oct 8 10:40:33 MDT 1995

A number of reactions:

1. If African-Americans are enthusiastic about the verdict, it has been
argued on this list, then "who are we to criticize them?" Let's accept for
the moment the premise of the argument that African-Americans are
enthusiastic about the verdict. Even if this were the case, the notion that
when some issue involves the popular expression of an exploited class or an
oppressed group we should instantly surrender all independent and critical
thought has such a inglorious and self-destructive legacy and history {Have
we learned nothing from the rise and fall of the New Left?} that I found it
amazing that it is still put forward as a serious claim. How can one be on
the left in the US today, and not have a politics critical of much of popular

2. It is time to deconstruct this media image of a homogeneous
African-American community which is of one mind on the _implications_ and
_meaning_ of the verdict. There clearly is a something of a racial division
on the verdict itself -- with the great majority of African-Americans
supportive of the verdict, with the overwhelming majority of white Americans
opposed to the verdict. But there is a great range of sentiment underlying
these two views. I spent one day this week doing nothing but discussing the
verdict with my public high school classes in Crown Heights. Although
virtually all of these African-American and Latino/a students saw the verdict
as right, there was an incredible diversity of reasons for this view. Some
believed that OJ did the crime, but that the prosecution had not proved it;
some saw reasonable doubt coming from the racism of the police, and were not
sure one way or another if he was guilty; some were simply unwilling to see
wrong in an African-American media icon and were completely convinced --
almost as a matter of faith -- of OJ's innocence; some saw the verdict as pay
back, a black jury freeing a black man who had done violence against whites
just as white juries have historically freed white defendants who have done
violence against blacks -- as recently in their memories as Rodney King. Some
of those views are mine own, or very close to my own; some are quite
disturbing. I would also note, although I did not have the same opportunity
for intense discussion with a large number of white folks, that I did
recognize some diversity in their views -- and some of those views, such as a
concern for the seriousness with which domestic violence is being treated,
are also very close to my own views.

3. I suspect that on this issue I may not be very far in a practical way not
only from Jerry, but also from Doug Henwood and Ralph Dumain, although Ralph
seems intent upon setting up his stance in his classically idiosyncratic

An issue that may be worth discussion here is the following:
What are the sources and the implications of the rise of a narrow black
nationalism, most graphically represented by Farrakhan's March of A Million
Men, in the African-American community? There were two very interesting
articles in today's (Sunday) _New York Times_, with a very interesting and
unusual array of commentators including Salim Muwakkil (the only reason I
would read _In These Times_ ), Adolph Reed (of whom I am no fan) and Kendall
Thomas, a gay African-American critical legal theory type from Columbia.

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