The day O.J. Simpson was acquitted of a double homicide, I was in Harlem watching the trial with millions around the world. When the verdict of “not guilty” on all counts was announced, I could hear a wave of cheers pass my brownstone and reverberate throughout my apartment. However, when I arrived at work that evening, my co-workers behaved and treated me like I had personally set Simpson free.
Why? I had a theory at the time that Simpson couldn’t have possibly committed murder and he was taking the blame to protect his son. After all, this was the dude from the Hertz commercials, the sportscaster and the football hero from USC.
After watching OJ: Made in America, clearly my theory had some major potholes.
Just like with slavery, indentured servants, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system, the origins are always deep-rooted and hard to shake nor understand.
O.J. Simpson became a product of an environment that revere’s and idolizes celebrities making one color blind. No one cares what ethnicity you are when you are a rich, well-known celebrity who is an American hero.
OJ: Made in America effectively and accurately chronicles how O.J. Simpson’s celebrity status made him feel as though he could do anything, say anything without consequences. He somehow felt he was invincible.
History has proven that many celebrities of color often ignore their own community at the height of their careers, only to grovel for acceptance when everyone else has turned their back. People of color are loyal and forgiving to a fault. We are a strong, faith filled community that forgives, supports and loves harder than anyone I know. Maybe that’s why we all wanted so badly to believe in O.J. Simpson.
We wanted to believe that this football hero was not a walking psychotic monster. We wanted justice for all the times the LAPD took an unarmed life. We wanted justice for Rodney King (may he Rest in Peace). We got what we asked for, but at what cost. There are still unarmed young black men and women being shot and killed all over the country.
O.J. Simpson eventually landed behind bars because his ego believed he could break into a hotel to reclaim his beloved Heisman trophy, yet again…without consequences to his actions. Simpson’s children have grown up without a mother and doubt over whether or not their father was her murderer. The Goldman family will never have peace or answers to why their son was murdered. Ron Goldman simply seemed to show up at the wrong place during the wrong time.
Some legal careers were made infamous (Johnnie Cochran) and others faded into the sunset (Marcia Clark and Chris Darden). Simpson found out real quick who his friends were and who believed in him no matter what. It was called “The Trial of the Century” for a variety of reasons and yet everyone involved has seen nothing but misery and pain.
After being bombarded for years with specials and movies speculating over O.J. Simpson’s innocence or guilt, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to spend four hours watching what I though would be more of the same. I was wrong.
O.J.: Made in America was an eye-opening account of American pop celebrity culture and how under the right circumstances the legal system manipulates for those it deems deserve freedom,
It was fascinating to see how a black man from Oakland became one of the most famous, non-threatening celebrities of a century. How me loved him for his sports skills and women loved with being on his arm represented. How he divorced himself from the Black community at the height of his career and how people of color were the first the wrap their arms around him after the smoke had cleared.
Watching the footage of the numerous slayings in Los Angeles that consistently found officers not guilty of any wrong doing was mind-boggling. Especially since, more than 20 years later, not a lot has changed.
If you missed this five-part series when it aired on ESPN earlier this year, you can now stream it via Hulu and Amazon NOW!