OJ AND ME -- PART 1

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Sat Oct 7 18:10:10 MDT 1995


OJ AND ME: A PERSONAL MEMOIR -- PART 1

Though I am from Buffalo, I never did give two flying fucks about
OJ or football.  My sole concern with OJ was with respect to THE
NAKED GUN movies, which cracked me up.  I was not overly concerned
with the murder case either, but as I happened to be in front of a
TV, I was utterly spellbound by the Bronco chase, which reminded
me of a scene out of Mel Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES, i.e. where the
black sheriff holds a gun to his own head and threatens the
redneck crowd that he "will shoot this nigger" unless they back
off.  Upon OJ's arrest, I resolved that I would avoid paying any
attention to this case, because, whatever the potential
controversies involved, OJ was rich enough to take care of
himself.  OJ didn't need me, so I would pay him no mind.

I happened to wander into my local just a few minutes before the
verdict was announced.  I was so out of the loop I didn't even
know that the verdict was to be read at 1 pm EDT.  But as it
stands, I just happened to be in a public place to hear the
verdict.  There was no TV, only a radio.  The suspense was so
thick everyone was about to explode.  The manager on duty, a black
male, said he didn't care, he just wanted it to be over already.
I think he wanted to get back to playing his CDs.  I didn't really
care, either, but I tell you, the suspense even got to me.
Perhaps I was worrying about how I would react to everyone else's
reaction, but my stomach became tied up in knots.  We didn't have
a TV to watch, but the courtroom procedure was an unbearable
tease.  When Ito asked for the envelope please, my stomach did a
flip-flop; the suspense almost made me throw up.  The tension was
simply unbearable.

The black-owned establishment is racially mixed both in its staff
and its clientele.  There was an even mixture of whites and blacks
in the place.  Even those who seemed to have no stake in the
outcome were charged with adrenaline as the moment of decision
approached.  "Coincidentally", a white cop entered just moments
before the verdict was read.  Perhaps he was assigned to look out
for potential riots, which never were going to happen anyway
(another racist media myth).

Finally, after all the potchying around, the not guilty verdicts
were read.  A black man sitting next to me exploded with joy.  The
black woman he was with seemed to be happy too because that was
expected of her.  A white female customer was also jubilant over
the acquittal.  A black male waiter, whom I had thought would have
a personal stake in the outcome, was completely stone-faced.  He
was sitting down doodling on his sketch-pad and remained
completely expressionless.  A black female customer, who projects
a deliberately professional image and who works on Capitol Hill,
piped up nervously that she thought OJ probably did kill those
people.  The white man sitting on the other side of me did not
react at all, nor did the white cop standing off to the side.
Then the black manager switched off the radio, and got back to
playing his CDs.

I think you ought to know this, so that you will be reminded that
neither black nor white folk are monolithic entities.  Also, you
must understand the suspense involved, so that even a person like
myself who was neutral and indifferent got caught up in the
excitement.  Now, as childish as I think exultation over the
acquittal was, I would like to remind you that the tension was so
great, it is not beyond comprehension that some people would yelp
with joy or cry out in anguish, depending.  Perhaps it would be
useful to interview those jubilant over the acquittal a couple of
days later to see how they felt then.  Perhaps ask them if they
got happy because they already thought OJ to be innocent, or
because they felt vindicated themselves if OJ were found to be
innocent, or whatever.  But not all black people got happy.  And
though some of the reaction was indeed as infantile as the mass
media showed you, the truth is that there was a lot more sober,
intelligent discussion afterward in the black community than I
have seen among whites.  When it comes to who is _really_ blindly
emotional and who is calmly rational, the truth is exactly the
opposite of what white people think.

(NEXT INSTALLMENT: ON THE STREET, AND INTO THE NEWSPAPERS)



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