Friday, April 12, 2024

When OJ went on trial, the symbolic freight of Race-in-America went on trial with him

Wesley Morris, O.J. Was an Earthquake. We’re Still Living With His Aftershocks. NYTimes, April 12, 2024.

Are we still in Great American territory? I think so. After all, folks knew what he meant. It can be a real burden, standing for, standing in for. Folks also knew that O.J. liked to run. That was him in 1977, galloping in Africa alongside LeVar Burton on night one of “Roots.” The man was not an intellectual — not in any conventional sense. He did exist as an idea, though, as a curious, compelling, perhaps glorious “what if?” What if a Black man were free to live as himself and never face a consequence for merely being? What if white people truly just saw him as he wished they would — as O.J.? He appeared to be living just that dream. In a place some call “La La Land,” no less. But it was more like a program the La Las once produced: “Fantasy Island.”

He found himself the nexus of a murder case in 1994, accused of stabbing to death his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, beckoning the Richter scale. He was the defendant. Yet almost immediately it was evident that American history was on trial. Not anything you’d find indexed in a textbook. But the American historical psyche — the nasty, lurid stuff, the paranoia, the paradox, the farce, the terror, the truth. The cosmos of it all. Dare I say, the karma. There everything went — swirling, kicked up. For a television show that ran nonstop for two years. More “Roots.”

There's more at the link. 

See this piece I published in Meanderings in the mid-1990s.

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