'O.J. Simpson: Made in America,' and the Prophecy of Dr. King
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Film , Reviews

'O.J. Simpson: Made in America,' and the Prophecy of Dr. King

[caption id="attachment_1308" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]ESPN’S ’30 FOR 30′ ALUM EZRA EDELMAN’S ‘O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA’ A SWEEPING WORK ON SEDUCTION OF SIMPSON’S CELEBRITY JUXTAPOSED AGAINST DEVASTATED BLACK L.A. COMMUNITY ESPN’S ’30 FOR 30′ ALUM EZRA EDELMAN’S ‘O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA’ A SWEEPING WORK ON SEDUCTION OF SIMPSON’S CELEBRITY JUXTAPOSED AGAINST DEVASTATED BLACK L.A. COMMUNITY[/caption]

It was 1994, and I was just twenty years old when the “Trial of the Century” began. As opposed to what most Americans seemed to believe, O.J. Simpson was not one of the most famous people on the planet. To us in Brazil, he was just the black dude on that one American comedy with the old white guy who played a crazy detective. To be completely honest, we didn’t even know his name, and we had no idea he was a famous American football player. And because Brazilians do not care for American football, we didn’t really care for O.J.’s trial either.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after developing a strong friendship with some members of the African-American community, that I somewhat became interested in O.J. It was also around that time that I began learning about the differences and similarities between the black experience in Brazil and the United States. By then, I had already learned enough to understand a statement made by one of my African-American friends: “I don’t care if he did it or not. For the first time in history a black man has been able to beat the white supremacist justice system in America”. But did he really? That question came to my mind after watching the documentary series "O.J.: Made in America".

There was a strange paradox about the trial of O.J. Simpson. The paradox is this: in order to be judged as a white man, O.J. had to become black. Let me explain. It is pretty obvious to anyone who watched the documentary that at some point in his life, after earning enough money and fame, O.J. no longer considered himself “black”. And even though such a physical transmutation would be impossible, his wealthy and celebrity status allowed him to live a white social life. However, in the United States of America, the ultimate test that will determine whether or not someone is socially white, is at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system. O.J. had no problems with the former, and was able to get around the latter, at least at that time. But in order to do that, his dream team of attorneys had to turn a murder trial into a racial one. The theory that founded their strategy was that O.J. had been framed by Los Angeles’ racist police because he was a successful black man. And just like that, O.J. became black again in order to get away with a crime no black man in America could possibly get away with. And he did get away. But the story didn’t finish there, and we all know how it ends.

Fast-forward to the present and you will find O.J. in a jail cell. The self-proclaimed race-less celebrity was sentenced to thirty-three years in prison for what was, at most, “a two year crime dripping wet”, in the words of Carl Edwin Douglas (one of the defense attorneys in O.J.’s murder case). America’s criminal justice system gave its final verdict: guilty of being black. I guess my African-American friend spoke too soon.

There is, however, one more thing that hit a note for me when watching the documentary. At some point during the trial, O.J.’s famous black lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, quoted MLK Jr. to state that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I couldn’t agree more with Dr. King, but not in the same sense that Mr. Cochran used his sentence. And here is another paradox. The centuries of injustice endured by African descendants in America would not result in injustice to O.J. Simpson, as Mr. Cochran suggested, but to the families of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. That brings us back to the statement made by my African-American friend: “I don’t care if he did it or not. For the first time in history a black man has been able to beat the white supremacist justice system in America”. The documentary succeeds in conveying the idea that that was the sentiment shared by the majority of the African-American community. It’s not that blacks really believed O.J. was innocent. The truth of who really committed those murders was a minor detail next to the possibility of a black man beating America’s white supremacist justice system, as my friend eloquently expressed. Revenge is what acquitted O.J. Simpson. As it usually happens with America’s criminal justice system, justice wasn’t served. Not to O.J. Not to the families of Nicole and Ronald. And much less to the hundreds of black people who continue to be brutalized and killed by the police — a reality shared by countries like Brazil and many others that served as a destination for the colonial slave trade.

Dr. King’s prophecy continues to be fulfilled.


Márcio de Abreu is a Brazilian Cultural Producer and Filmmaker

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