‘I’m not black, I’m OJ’

THE recent death of OJ Simpson, movie star, Heisman Trophy-winning football player and serial wife-beater, reminded me of the sordid and brutal crime for which he was tried but not convicted. I am referring, of course, to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, Simpson’s ex-wife and the mother of two of his children, and of Ron Goldman, a young man, a good friend of Nicole’s, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. place was. time.

They were murdered on the evening of June 12, 1994, almost thirty years ago, in front of the condominium where Nicole lived with her two children. Because of the celebrity of their apparent killer, their murders immediately attracted American attention and were widely reported around the world.

OJ Simpson’s death also prompted me to do something I now regret: going online and looking at the photos of the victims taken at the scene of the crime. After writing a dissertation on murder and the death penalty in post-war Britain, I spent many afternoons in the Public Record Office at Kew looking at gruesome crime scene photographs, but nothing prepared me for the sight of the exposed larynx of Nicole Brown Simpson. through her bloodied and torn throat. Whoever killed her – and there is a mountain of evidence that it was her footballing ex-husband – seems to be possessed by a rage bordering on the demonic.

Nicole Brown’s autopsy report makes grim reading indeed. In addition to the multiple stab wounds, including to her scalp, the wounds in her throat nearly resulted in decapitation. According to Goldman’s autopsy report, he also suffered multiple stab wounds, including, in addition to the severing of the left internal jugular vein that killed him, wounds to the chest, abdomen and hands, the latter indicating that he had attempted to kill himself or his friends to defend. friend Nicole, an opportunity that brought some comfort to his family during that terrible time.

Nicole and Ron’s bodies were found just after midnight on June 13 after neighbors noticed Brown’s Akita dog, which was barking immoderately, was covered in blood. It led them to the murder scene. God must be thanked that her two children, aged five and eight, who were asleep in the house while all this was taking place, did not discover their mother in her frightened state, with her head barely attached to her body. Ron Goldman’s body was found in nearby bushes after police arrived.

Within days, OJ Simpson became the leading and so far only suspect in the murders.

Then came Simpson’s suicide notes and the legendary two-hour low-speed chase as a friend drove him in a white Ford Bronco along the seemingly endless freeways of Los Angeles, the object of the chase cowering in the back, a gun to his temple, a phalanx of police cars, lights flashing silently, following in perfect order. The bizarre spectacle was watched on television by 90 million Americans, more than a third of the population. Shortly afterwards came the anticlimactic arrest, and then the nine-month trial that descended to a level of banality unusual even by American legal standards.

From the start of the hearing, it became increasingly about race: Simpson was black and his victims white. His expensive lawyers – the ‘dream team’ – quickly weaponized the race in a way that has become well known thirty years later. Detectives and prosecutors were branded with the indelible stain of racism, which is now the most ruinous accusation in the English-speaking world, capable of destroying the reputations of completely innocent people; but the racial aspect of the trial that disgusted me most was how the defense team changed the photos hanging on the walls of Simpson’s home just before the visit of the predominantly black and female jury, replacing the existing scantily clad white women with images of him with black people – certainly the height of cynicism.

Since Simpson’s acquittal — the jury took just four hours of deliberation to reach that verdict after hearing nine months of evidence — it has become increasingly clear to anyone with more than half a brain that he left his ex-wife and Ron Goldman killed.

Furthermore, Carrie Bess, who was on the original jury, revealed in a 2016 documentary made for ESPN that “90 percent of the jury actually decided to acquit Simpson, not because they believed he was innocent, but as revenge for Rodney King’. . King was a black man who was arrested by police in Los Angeles in 1991 and severely beaten. When the white officers who beat King were tried and acquitted, the 1992 LA riots followed, in which 63 people died.

When you look back at those terrible events of the early 1990s, you see in them a foreshadowing of the era of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, the new racial dispensation we find ourselves in in 2024. When Simpson’s acquittal was broadcast, black Americans from Coast to Coast celebrated the verdict, “in parts of Los Angeles, taking to the streets, cheering and handing out celebratory drinks.” One can only assume that a large number of partygoers – otherwise decent, rational men and women, many of them churchgoers and passionate about civil rights – knew that Simpson was guilty of the brutal murder of two innocent people. This is perhaps the saddest aspect of all. Simpson’s acquittal was seen as retaliation for slavery, lynching and the evils of Jim Crow.

Mainstream media reactions to his death at age 76 have reflected this sentiment, praising Simpson as a semi-tragic figure, a victim of a systemically racist America. Space forbids me to cite all the many examples of the established media targeting Simpson, so I will have to suffice, this from the perspective of New York Times: ‘He became famous in the football world and made fortunes in films. His trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend became a turning point on race in America.” This article doesn’t mention the “ex-wife” or the “boyfriend,” as if they were just a minor player in this grand racial story that was far more important than their lives.

“My greatest achievement,” Simpson told journalist Robert Lipsyte, “is that people think of me first and foremost as a man, and not as a black man,” an appealing sentiment in an era of racial essentialization and concerted attacks on doctrine by Martin Luther King. . If only those noble words were said by someone other than the man who assaulted his wife 60 times and slaughtered two people in such a grotesque manner that world-weary LAPD detectives describe the crime scene as one of the most gruesome they have ever witnessed ever seen. That he was said to have been “a turning point on race in America” ​​is entirely surprising given that he showed no interest in the civil rights movement and rarely referred to his race. “I’m not black, I’m O J,” he liked to say.

When all the obituaries have been written and all the academics and former members of the Obama and Biden administrations have had their say, invariably using the demeaning language of academia and critical race theory that no ordinary American understands, including the current author, stay I am left with the indelible crime scene photos of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, two young people who did not deserve their untimely and terrible deaths. Wherever they are, I pray that they will now know the peace that passes all understanding.