How O.J. Simpson Trial Ended The Dream of Martin Luther King
I just finished watching the new O.J. Simpson series produced by ESPN. With all the stunning material available, the only surprise is that there isn’t a TV series done each year. His tragic tale is rife with metaphor. This new series, O.J. In America, decided to dabble in the racial politics of a man who was widely accepted by the white community and shunned by progressive blacks.
A series of New York Times/ New Yorker types interviewed in the series made this out to be a very bad tradeoff. O.J. was a sellout to his race, they intoned. Got his head turned by the dominant culture of the land. The money perverted him. Simpson got lost in the white world of his murdered wife and the corporate shills of the day. Certainly Bernie Sanders would approve of this revisionist spin.
But for those who lived through the late 1960s, when Simpson became a transcendent football star at USC, the approved racial memes of today seemed a little less certain. For all his power and anger, Malcolm X was not the voice of black America. Neither was Cassius Clay when he accepted Islam and became Muhammad Ali.
The towering intellectual and moral force in the black community at the time was Martin Luther King. As opposed to Barack Obama, who preaches racial harmony but practices racial sequestration, Dr. King walked the talk. He was imagining at a very different America than the dream state of the current president. He wanted in, not out.
It’s hard to recall how King’s message resonated when he delivered his stunning speech in Washington in 1963. People today cannot comprehend the electricity he generated in all communities when he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
King was predicting a land where colour no longer matters. A land where character and steadfastness and achievement are the highest goals. Today, the proud boast of Obama and the progressives is that everything is about colour, not character. Everyone is about check lists of the aggrieved, talking points of the hard-done-by, education camps for liberal guilt. Growth cannot be made unless it’s as the expense of someone else we hate.
Simpson was a man King might have admired in some ways, even if the ESPN producers dismissed him in their zeal to reinforce the grievance culture. O.J. had no time for those who chose to cut themselves off in their culture, who were marinating in their bitterness over racial bigotry. He chose to be measured by something larger than colour.
That he failed is more of a mark on his character than his colour.
The Simpson trial began as a trying of facts about a murder and ended with O.J.’s lawyer Johnny Cochrane comparing Los Angeles police members to Hitler. In between, moral relativism became the received wisdom of the land. Anything can be justified if the glove doesn’t fit. Or the damning blood evidence was poorly collected. Or if the judge allows the testimony.
In many respects, the verdict in Simpson’s murder trial was the end of Dr. King’s racial dream. It was also the just about worst thing that could have happened to the American black movement. Think of the lessons that have emerged from it. Even though Simpson was clearly guilty of the savage murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman (shown in horrifying detail by the TV producers) he was granted freedom in some perverse payback for slavery. Even thought the political black community scorned O.J. they cynically embraced him to launch an attack on the LAPD.
The clips of his family and friends defending him today look like pathetic rationalizations. But none of them has ever been called to account for perpetrating a miscarriage of justice. It is all about Mark Fuhrman and the N word.
Even though everything about the trial was a distortion, the black community sees it as a just struggle. For many, it substituted the notion of resisting white culture for progress. It legalized some of the very worst elements in black leadership.
Is this the promised land Dr. King extolled? The perversions of justice and fact that characterized the Simpson trial have become commonplace in the political war in America. An ISIS lunatic in Orlando or a couple of Muslim fanatics in San Bernadino massacre innocents, but it’s about guns. The black family is weakened in every way by single parents, low incomes and a nihilistic rap culture, but it’s the fault of Republicans.
If Simpson can be innocent, why can’t Elizabeth Warren be an Indian, Bruce Jenner be a woman or Rachel Dolezal be a black woman? Moral relativism is corroding everything.
Dr. King would not be impressed at how fact and truth were bent on the altar of his just cause. Neither should we. That is the lesson of O.J. Simpson.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).