Free or Jailed, Why Should We Care About O.J.?

O.J. Simpson.  A highly controversial figure who was the best running back in the National Football in his prime is all over the television today because of his parole hearing in Nevada for five counts of robbery. Originally sentenced to up to 33 years in prison in 2008, Simpson’s prior history in the legal system was his acquittal for the double murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. 

23 years after the death of his ex-wife, O.J.Simpson was unanimously granted parole by a Nevada parole board, despite being somewhat flippant, arrogant and showing flashes of celebrity privilege.

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Breaking: O.J. Simpson has been granted parole nine years into a 33-year sentence; could be released as early as Oct. 1st.

At one time, many in the black community flocked to his side to lend support to a man who framed himself as the victim of a racist justice system that was trying to send another black man to prison.  Despite the evidence, Simpson’s super legal team led by Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey was able to get him off.  

For reasons we can only speculate upon at this point, O.J. would waltz into a Las Vegas hotel room years later with a cadre of goons to forcibly liberate a sports memorabilia dealer and former friend of items he felt were stolen from him.  No one was hurt badly, but I knew for certain the Nevada criminal justice system was going to throw the book at him.  Not because of what he was being accused of, but for murdering two white people and getting away with it.

I recall sitting in the student center at Mercer County College in Central New Jersey watching the verdict of his murder trial.  As is the case with many schools at which Black students make up a relatively small portion of the student body, the student center served as a de facto gathering place for students of color.  

The cheering that erupted as the verdict was read struck me as especially odd. Though much of my articulated thoughts on race in America were far more fiery back then, even today they would still be considered by mainstream America as far left at best. It was confusing and sickening to watch my fellow students erupt and cheer as his lawyers shared congratulatory hugs and handshakes.  

Later, I saw a black commentator on a local news show bring up how boisterous celebrations were taking place from all over the country and how inappropriate they were. The term “house n*gga” was sprinkled throughout the room. I was young and didn’t fully appreciate how much those who shared similar ancestry as I needed to see a “win” for a black man in the criminal justice system after centuries of miscarriages.  

Until I actually moved to Los Angeles in 1998, I was oblivious to the still resonating impact of the death of 14-year-old LaTasha Harlins, shot dead by the wife of a Korean store owner after being falsely accused of stealing, as well as the Rodney King trial and the subsequent riots that engulfed the city in 1992.

Taking those factors into consideration 20 years after the fact, I now understand how these incidents set against the backdrop of American history could lead the affected to exorcise decorum and cheer at a rare instance in which a “brother” got off. Indeed, a “brother” got off, but by what means? Celebrity, of course, and what can only be described as circumstantial blackness.  

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After almost 9 years in prison, O.J. Simpson is granted parole.

As his hearing ensued today for his robbery conviction, I watched as Simpson turned on the charm and flashed that Hertz Rental Car smile in trying to convince a parole board of four to release him from prison.  Does he deserve to serve 33 years for armed robbery?  Legally, no. Does he deserve to be serving a life sentence in California for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend? Morally, probably.

However, the simple fact that Simpson denied his blackness and shunned the civil rights movement for decades, then claimed the Los Angeles Police Department was trying to set him up, makes me not give a damn about O.J. Simpson’s fate.  I could care less.  

To be honest, there might be are hundreds if not thousands of potential O.J.’s enjoying celebrity shine time and adulation from African Americans while completely disregarding what it is to be black in America. It is difficult to say that, though.

For Black folks in this country, sports figures have long held a special place in our hearts.  The athletes of our community were the first readily visible examples of black excellence the country and the world got to see since the turn of the century.  So the willingness to discount the fact that two people are dead and a former hero got away with their murders is KINDA apropos. 

But so is the ability to admit to that someone we cheered and adored was free due in part to his artificially renewed connection to the black community when it suited him, a community that he had previously shunned.

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O.J. Simpson celebrating his parole like

During his parole hearing, Simpson told the board that he wished that the incident in Las Vegas had not occurred. But it’s too late for all that, in my opinion. In the digital age, everyone gets their say via a myriad of social media apps and communication devices.  But I really don’t care.  Haven’t cared since 1994. I’m not going to be admonishing anyone with a #FreeOJ hashtag on their page, but I just don’t care.  Not going to be going after racist trolls that are inevitably lurking regardless of the decision, I just don’t care.

Not going to be going after far right talking heads on the major sports networks for calling him a sociopath on one side of their mouths while downplaying Colin Kaepernick’s impact as an activist.  I just don’t care. I DON’T CARE.  Let’s spell it out; I. D-O-N-T. C-A-R-E.  

The only positive thing that could possibly come of this is his children get their Dad back.  However, if his skills as a father are indicative of his the skills he displayed “hunting” the “real” murderers of his ex-wife, then my sympathy for them is the only ember of concern that remains.

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