Why Many Whites Are Still Mad at O.J.

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Ph.D.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson


The spectacle on the steps at the downtown Los Angeles criminal courts building looked like a scene at a World Wrestling Federation match. Watchers and passerby's shrieked, yelped, and gave the thumbs down sign as several frenzied members of a Christian fundamentalist group pounded to smithereens O.J. Simpson's Professional Football Hall of Fame Plaque and burned two of his football jerseys. They coughed up the $16, 000 for the items at a court ordered auction of Simpson items solely to stage a public spectacle to tell everyone they still believed he got away with murder.

Judging from the cheers they got from many white passerby's many of them still think the same. Finding him liable for murder in a civil trial and slapping him with a mountainous judgment was no consolation to them. They still watch in dismay a cheerful, and relaxed looking Simpson golf, vacation, and make public appearances. They are still anguished that Simpson is living comfortably on his pension fund. They still fume at the decision to grant him custody of his children, and feverishly pray that a judge in his upcoming custody hearing will snatch them away from him. But mostly they are still mad at him for the same reasons they were after he was acquitted.

Media Sensationalism. From the moment Nicole Simpson's bloody and mangled body was found much of the media subtly, and sometimes openly, conveyed the message that Simpson was guilty. It shamelessly pandered to tabloid sensationalism, but it made many whites expect and demand that Simpson be convicted. The carefully orchestrated TV shots of jubilant blacks high fiving the verdict reinforced white anger. The avalanche of books on the trial pounded hard on the injustice of the verdict and highly publicized interviews with the authors have rammed home the notion that a murderer is still walking free.

Also many media commentators and legal analysts planted the idea that a predominantly white jury in a civil trial would not let him get away this time. Even though they didn't, it still was a pyrrhic victory. No matter how harsh the civil judgment against Simpson he still is not behind bars.

  • Crime and Race. The public is justifiably scared stiff of crime. Yet far to many whites stereotypically translate their fear of violent crime into fear of black men. The public is constantly reminded at every turn in TV and press reports that one out of three young black males are in prison, on parole or probation. The fear of black male crime no longer seems racist to many whites but a realistic reaction to their concern over the perceived threat to their personal safety and property. Yet Simpson, a black male, was not convicted. This wrongly reinforces the racially soothing suspicion of many whites that black criminals are not fully punished for serious crimes.
  • The Justice System. His acquittal fueled the same white suspicions that attorneys mangle the system and their guilty clients skip away scot free. They were aroused by the horde of Simpson media commentators, legal experts and politicians who branded the legal system corrupt, compromised and inept. The wrongful death judgment against him did nothing to make them believe that justice was really done.
  • Money and Power. Simpson's pockets were expansive enough to hire a "dream team" defense, an army of expert witnesses and investigators. Since most people can't afford that, Simpson confirmed their belief that justice is for sale and that the rich, famous and powerful will always weasel out of punishment. In the civil trial Simpson's wealth didn't save him from being found liable for the murders but it did not make him a pauper and a pariah either. And it did not send the message that money shouldn't save the rich, especially the black rich.
  • Simpson's Reaction. He has pretty much done the Pontius Pilate routine and washed his hands of the whole business. This makes it appear that he is indifferent, even insensitive, to the plight of the victims. This does nothing to diffuse the anger.

Simpson loudly complains that many still feast off of his case. This isn't likely to change. He's a black man that punches to many emotional hot buttons, prickes to many social sores, and taps the deep well of white bigotry. And besides he still lets just about anyone with an ax to grind get the media to take silly public spectacles against him seriously.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the author of The Crisis in Black and Black. email:ehutchi344@aol.com

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