I Finally Saw “O.J.: Made In America,” And I Am Depressed

Inspired by the upcoming parole hearing, in which double knife-murderer O.J. Simpson is expected to be paroled (and should be), I decided to watch a much-praised documentary series that I had thus far avoided.

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” (not to be confused with “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,”the dramatic TV mini-series starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the fallen football great, released the same year ) is a 2016 documentary produced for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series. I saw it a few days ago. I’m sorry I did.

Not that the film isn’t excellent, thorough, fair and though-provoking. It is. Nor was there too much in it that surprised me. Simpson defense attorney Carl Douglas gloating over how the defense team unethically and dishonestly altered Simpson’s home to deceive the jury made me want to punch him in his smug face, but I already knew about that outrageous tactic. Seeing Mark Furmin on the stand invoking the Fifth Amendment when he was asked whether he had ever planted evidence at a crime scene made me want to gag, but it made me want to gag when I saw it live. One more time, I was convinced that the prosecution had so botched the case that there was plenty of reasonable doubt for a jury to employ to acquit O.J., just as it was obvious from the trial that he was guilty as sin. All of this I expected.

I did not expect to be so emotionally troubled and ethically disoriented by the conclusion of the film, in which one African-American after another, most of them speaking in the present day, tells the camera with various levels of offensiveness that O.J.’s acquittal was a great moment for black America, a form of redemption, pay-back for centuries of abuse and decades of  discrimination by police and the justice system, proof that the system can work for African Americans and not merely against them, a well-earned poke in the eyes of white America, sweet vengeance and retribution, and a result to be honored and cherished as victory for blacks everywhere.

A prominent minister and civil rights leader actually compares Simpson’s acquittal to Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. I wonder what Robinson would have thought about that comparison.

I am currently unable to reconcile what I saw and heard with respect for the civil rights movement and the African American community. I am trying. I am. But these statements and arguments are devoid of ethical content, and cannot be excused without wholesale adoption of rationalizations and logical fallacies. Do I “understand” the reaction? I had many arguments about this use of “understand” when President Obama and others used it to justify the African American community’s view that Trayvon Martin was the victim of a racist murderer whom a just system would convict and imprison. This use of “understand” is a means of clouding and confusing the truth, while adopting the false construct that everyone is entitled to have their own “truth” respected.

No, I don’t “understand” that position, except in the sense that I understand how some people are so driven by bias and emotion that they are incapable of reason, and refuse to accept reality. I cannot respect that position, because to accept it helps spreads ignorance and anger. “Understand,” used the way it was used in the Martin-Zimmerman case, eventually means empathy, and ultimately respect. No, I will not respect someone who says a man should be imprisoned for murder when the law says that the facts don’t support that charge, and the system requires that his guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Respecting the position gives it legitimacy that the position does not deserve.

Yet the position expressed regarding O.J.’s acquittal is much worse. It says that an innocent woman, abused by her killer, and an innocent young man should not get the justice society is supposed to exact for the crime that ended their lives because their race demands that they  be slaughtered without consequences to their executioner. It says that because blacks have been treated unjustly when they were innocent, a guilty black man who murdered two people out of rage deserves to go free. It says that the pain and frustration whites (and many non-whites) felt at the failure of society to punish a killer is worth the price of a murderer escape justice to create. The post-Simpson verdict attitudes I saw in the documentary communicated, very clearly, these statements:

We’re glad O.J. Simpson got away with murder, because of the color of his skin, and for nothing else related to him. That’s enough.

If you are white, we hate you.

It is more important to us that a black man escape the consequences of a murderous act than it is that his white victims and their families see that act punished.

Vengeance is good.

Social justice for black America means treating whites just as unjustly as they treated blacks, and for just as long if possible.

I know: the Simpson case was 20 years ago. It came on the heels of the Rodney King riots. It was in L.A. Things are different now.

Are they? In those mocking, gleeful, satisfied African-Americans being interviewed, I saw Black Lives Matters, I saw Evergreen University, I saw Marilyn Moseby, I saw Eric Holder,  I saw Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry, I saw Jamelle Boiue, Colin Kaepernick, and Ta’Nehisi Coates.

As I said, I’m sorry I saw the film, and very troubled that I can’t, so far at least, find a way to reconcile what I saw in “O.J.: Made in America” with  maintaining some semblance of trust toward a large segment of the African American community that appears to believe that I and members of my family  need to be harmed to pay off a blood debt created by those with whom I share nothing but a pigment.

I am going to continue to try, however. Any assistance you can offer will be much appreciated.

You can watch the documentary here.

42 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

42 responses to “I Finally Saw “O.J.: Made In America,” And I Am Depressed

  1. Rick M

    Racial Watershed in American history. A rich dysfunctional black male got away with a crime that usually a dysfunctional rich white male gets away with. Racial parity achieved.

  2. Isaac

    If it makes you feel any better, just about 100% of my own African-American friends would agree that O.J. is as guilty as sin and rightfully should have gone to prison. I’d even wager that the average Black person on the street (from my own experiences all over the country) is far more level-headed than the sampling given. You tend to see this kind race-war baiting, color-obsessed hive-mind thinking from the somewhat educated “woke” African Americans (as in, those “brainwashed by Progressive academia, who incidentally are mostly White themselves, and benefit politically from said brainwashing.)

    There’s just no role for a reasonable, unbiased, color-blind perspective in the narrative of the documentary. So instead you get a collection of talking heads who value tribalism over fairness.

    • That makes me feel a lot better. I hope you’re right.

      • Here’s 1 more AA: He was guilty as sin.

        The illogical thinking among other blacks, that a black man getting away with a crime is rightful payback, makes me ashamed, as as it’s undeniable evidence that many blacks have no problem holding their “own” to lowered standards. Killing someone is objectively wrong, this is undeniable to most; yet, somehow, in this context, it’s ok to not hold oj* to normal societal standards.

        Contrast that to the A.O. Scott column, where the line “A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity ” made me want to jump out of my own skin, it made me so angry. Doubly so, because of how few people recognize how racist this mindset is. Simply because Scott is hoisting black people upon a pedestal, and knocking down whites a few pegs does not erase the fact that he is assigning positive traits to blacks, and negative traits to whites, based on their skin color. Treating blacks like we can do no wrong, like being black is en vogue, like our s*** doesn’t stink (all are calling cards of the guilty white liberal) is dehumanizing (by the literal definition, to “deprive of human qualities”). Humans are flawed. Humans make mistakes. Humans err. These human conditions are not based on skin color, but rather on personality characteristics and circumstance. Treating blacks like we can do no wrong, when we KNOW humans CAN DO WRONG, is dehumanizing. Treating whites like their errors are the REAL errors, while minimizing black errors, is infantilizing. I’ve said it 1000 times, and I’ll say it til the day I die: “Blacks can be every bit as good, AND as evil, as any white person”

        I wish people would stop treating being blacks like we’re everything that’s right with America, and whites like the opposite. We’re all just human. The people who should be put on pedestals, deserve that honor because of their character, not because they look the part. That I get this, and people with a national platform (like Scott) don’t is incredibly depressing.

        *And it’s convenient to ignore this, but by most of black America’s standards, OJ was whiter than a ghost, what, with his fame/fortune, his choice in women, how eloquently he talked, how accepted he was my white America, and how easily he turned away from controversial black issues. This truly was a issue where sides were taken SOLELY on his skin color.

    • Other Bill

      Good point, Isaac. Lots and lots of editing and selection in “documentaries.” Frankly, I’ve grown very suspicious of “documentaries.” To the point where I even question most of Ken Burns’ work. I can’t help thinking that most of the time he’s fabricating a common past that’s never really existed in the U.S. It’s more wishful thinking and projecting the contemporary liberal project backwards. But the guy is considered a genius and widely acclaimed as a wonderful person. So who am I to say.

      • Other Bill

        And his stuff is so damned slick. End of my Ken Burns rant.

        • luckyesteeyoreman

          Wow, Other Bill, you and I are in a mind-meld today, or something. I sat through the O.J. series a few weekends ago, and emerged feeling like I had watched a protracted tale of vengeance portrayed as justice. So many avengers, so much justice for them to achieve by vengeance. I resented how the series wove together the Watts Riots, and the Rodney King verdict and riots, with the exoneration of O.J. I was reminded of some old radical’s axiom: “The professional is personal.” I constantly thought of the Ken Burns series on baseball history while watching the O.J. series, thinking: “This (O.J. story) is over-the-top. Burns had a positive theme to go with telling the history of the game, and the significance of that game (and of those who were involved in the game) to history itself.”

          I really did not see a comparable positive theme in the O.J. series – just that people were grievously treated before and after, and everyone ought to be upset about it, but there is no hope that the underlying conflicts will ever be resolved – and no reason to hope that any of the motivating history of imposed disadvantage and hardship, nor any of the aggravating ignorance and enmity, will ever be out-learned, out-thought, and overcome.

          I didn’t even pay attention to who were the producers of the O.J. series. Whoever they are, I’d say Ken Burns is a genius in comparison.

      • O.B.;

        “Frankly, I’ve grown very suspicious of ‘documentaries.’ ”

        That cast a certain gloom over things.

        You mean to tell me that the “An Inconvenient Truth” scene where the cherry picker lift, after easily negotiating its way past an airbrushed MWP, is straining mightily to hoist Fat Albert toward a severely ramping plant food, I mean EVIL atmospheric CO2 concentration graph line, isn’t above suspicion??

        Mercifully, any disbelief that may elicit will be quelled a week from tomorrow when “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” is released in select theaters.

    • Tippy Scales

      Amen, Isaac! I’ve found when I go out into the “real world” — you know, actually have conversations with other human beings face-to-face — most people of all stripes are reasonable. I often have these deep conversations in the gym/hot room/sauna, and while I encounter occasional idiots, most people seem to want the same thing, which is basically to get through the day, feed their families and keep a roof over their head.

      I recall an incident when my band was playing the “Mitch Albom Show” on the radio (he used to have local bands play during the breaks, and even though he’s a colossal, smug prick, it was nice exposure for my band). Well, right before Albom’s time-slot was the Rush Limbaugh show, and at the end of Rush’s show that day he announced he was addicted to painkillers.

      So the producers were rushing around trying to make a last-minute change to their show topic, because a right-winger announcing he was addicted to drugs was apparently huge news. What Albom said will always stick out in my memory, serving as a reminder of how things work in the “fake world” vs. the real world. He said:

      “When callers call in, only put people with strong views one way or another on the air.”

      I’m paraphrasing; it’s been a good 15 years or so and I’m quoting from memory, but that’s the gist of what he said: He only wanted extreme views to get airtime.

      That’s how these issues get framed. There’s no room (or the wherewithal) to give airtime to people with reasonable opinions, who maybe can see that both “sides” have merit. No, everything has to be polemic.

      One can speculate this is a nefarious plot by the powers that be to divide and conquer, or it could be as simple as “strong viewpoints make good radio/television/articles.” But either way, the public doesn’t get to hear reasonable viewpoints; instead, they’re exposed to the lunatics on both sides of these issues.

  3. deery

    Oh, OJ was probably the murderer. But anyone who followed the trial quickly realized that the police also planted evidence to implicate him more strongly.

    I think there was a sense of…vindication? in the black community that the jury did not fall for the standard police tactics as far as manufacturing evidence, and that for once, “reasonable doubt” had actual application to a black man. The police and the police lab of LA were known to be particularly corrupt, and OJ’s legal win served as a symbolic repudiation of those institutions.

    • Eternal optometrist

      Probably the murderer?

      • deery

        There is a slightly plausible theory that it was OJ’s son that did it, and that OJ was covering for him.

        I think it is far more likely that that if OJ’s son was involved, he was helping OJ, not doing ithe murders by himself. So there’s that.

        • Bamazalea

          I watched the docu-series and now have some doubts that OJ committed the actual murders and I was so certain that he did it. I’m glad I watched it because it reminds me to always retain a small shred of doubt. On another note, who would have thought that OJ’s trial would give us the gift of the Kardashians……ugh.

          • Well, THAT’S one for the books. There is absolutely nothing in the documentary that should make anyone doubt OJ did it, and if there was any doubt, the fact that he would try to market a book called “If I did it” should have obliterated it.

            • Bamazalea

              I should have clarified that I watched the docu-series about the evidence against OJ’s son that the above commentator was referring to. I don’t want to get depressed so I think I’ll pass on watching OJ Made in America. Another side note, I can’t wait to see your take on Howard University’s Law Professor’s Brazilian Wax question. I’m popping the popcorn now in anticipation 🙂

              • dragin_dragon

                O. J.’s son was two months shy of his sixth birthday when Nicole was killed, and probably could not have reached his mother’s neck, let alone slashed it. There is no doubt that he could NOT then have turned the knife on Ron Goldman.

                • deery

                  His older son, Jason. Not the one by Nicole. He had been committed for “intermittent rage disorder” on several occasions, was off his anti-psychotic mess at the time, and had gone after a former boss of his with a knife. Nicole Simpson was supposed to have shown up to an opening of his restaurant but had blown him off a day or two before the murders.

                  • This theory wasn’t even raised prominently in the trial, and Johnny and Co. tried everything. It’s like hypothesizing that the Zodiac did it.

                  • The OJ conspiracy documentaries are uniformly idiotic. I saw part of one claiming that Bob Kardashian spirited away an OJ suitcase with bloody clothes in them. Did you know that John Wilkes Booth escaped to Enid, Oklahoma?

              • I’m probably going to disappoint you. That was too stupid even for me.

    • The Rampart scandal was blown just three years later.

  4. dragin_dragon

    I haven’t watched it, and frankly, I’m not going to. I don’t want to be where you are. In spite of my occasional “We’re doomed”, I like to hold out some hope that America will somehow overcome this stupidity and will survive this. CB bolsters that hope. Unfortunately, I am afraid it is a forlorn hope, because of the inability of the folks you mentioned and what is, in and of it self, racist division. I am not going to hold my breath, but it is actually possible that I will live to see the final outcome of this. I hope so. And I hope it is positive, not for blacks, not for whites, but for Humans, Americans, citizens all.

  5. Steve-O-in-NJ

    I am not surprised at all. It’s no different than a so-called “celebration of freedom” July 4, 2014 in Philadelphia that featured then-VP Biden alongside then-black mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter (boy, what an apt name that). On Independence day you’d expect to hear a fair amount of stock talk about the Declaration, the Constitution, and how every day was progress in working out the plans of those who wrote them. I can forgive Biden’s reference to a then-recent Federal Court decision legalizing homosexual marriage in PA since it could be justifiably argued (after putting aside any gross-out factor) that this represented an extension of freedom – i.e. the freedom to marry the person of choice. Nutter got about 2 minutes into his speech, made one or two references to freedom, and then, standing not 20 feet away from the Old Guard and Independence Hall, spoke at great length about America’s failure as a free nation, because no nation where young black men were hunted like dogs by white police supported by politicians not of color could really be free. It was at that point that I decided to wander off down to Market Street and position myself to get decent pictures of the later parade.

    I also find it interesting that the mayor of Newark, who as you may know is the son of poet and radical Amiri Baraka the elder discontinued any observance of 9/11 in the City, which Cory Booker had observed religiously every year, and spoke about the 50th anniversary of the “Newark Revolution” this year, which most of us know as the Newark riots, where my father, across the river and just home from a 2-year hitch in the Navy, together with the Italian-American neighbors he and his family had known for years, held their breath and kept weapons close at hand. What was going on in that City was nothing even vaguely akin to the Minutemen standing at the bridge or Beauregard firing on Fort Sumter, and to use that word is to give it dignity it didn’t deserve. However, the black community would probably murder me if I said so openly, because either I just don’t get it, and should keep quiet, or I’m part of the problem, despite the fact that in the overwhelming number of crimes by black perpetrators the victims are black too, and there’s not a single city in this nation that’s been run too long by black Democrats that hasn’t turned into a complete disaster.

    The fact is the black community has too easily drunk the Kool-Aid that they’ve been fed by a few black (like Al Sharpton) and white (Clinton) hucksters. It’s a whole lot easier to blame someone else for your plight when someone whose name appears in the paper and whose face appears on TV all the time tells you that’s how it is. It’s easier still when you rarely leave your neighborhood and are hostile to those who are not from among your community. It’s even easier when the local leaders keep making promises, promises and pointing to an enemy you really don’t know on any level. It’s easiest of all when you are discouraged from even trying to reach out to the rest of the nation.

    The Irish got here and were greeted with “no Irish need apply,” so they took the jobs that few wanted to fill, including filling the ranks of the civil war. The cavalrymen who won the west were one-third Irish. Now they are an integral part of things. The Italians got here a little later, and did the same. Often in the city you had three choices if you were Italian: fire, police, or mob. Some went that third way, but many more went the others, and it’s not for nothing that every big city police department has a Petrosino Society and every big city fire department has a Columbus Society or a Florian Society. They were accepted too, because they tried to be. It seems quite often that the black community doesn’t want to be accepted, or they want to be accepted only on their terms. It doesn’t work that way. They spent years fighting separate but equal. They spent years trying to build bridges. However, it seems that in the end they have built bridges that come right back to their side of the river.

    • ”The Irish got here and were greeted with ‘no Irish need apply,’ so they took the jobs that few wanted to fill,”

      Veddy interestink! As a practicing “Paddy” whose few whiskers are red:

      “In the southern United States, Irish workers were often used instead of Black slaves for dangerous jobs, as the slave was a purchased asset, while the Irish worker’s life was considered dispensable without any incurred cost.

      “This division of labor was witnessed by Frederic Law Olmsted (who designed the NYC Central Park & the U.S. Capital grounds) as he watched workers load cotton bales onto a ship during his visit to the South in 1855.

      “He observed Black workers recklessly tossing bales from the top of a chute down towards Irish workers, who would then stow them onto a ship.

      “When he asked about his arrangement, he was told that ‘the niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything’ ”

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        And you pulled this from where, since you’re quoting something?

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            Thus your only ways to move up, outside of the military in the Civil War, were, same as the Italians: fire, police, or mob.

            • deery

              Though it must be pointed out, black people did not even have those options.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                Actually black firefighters go back to the beginning of the 19th century, and started to join the paid forces as they were organized after the Civil War, though not in huge numbers, and in some cases much later. Black police were a bit later, NY hired their first black cop in 1911, right after their first Italian officer, Giuseppe Petrosino, by now commanding a whole squad of Italian-American officers specifically tasked with battling organized crime, perished on an undercover assignment in Sicily. Organized black crime has been around as long as any other kind, need we talk about guys like Bumpy Johnson, a contemporary of Dutch Schultz?

                • deery

                  Black firefighters and policemen were a relative rarity pre-Civil Rights era. When hired, they faced threats from not just the course of performing their duties, but from the public and their fellow colleagues as well. http://www.legeros.com/history/ebf/national.shtml

                  The Irish and Italian mobs existed because they worked hand in hand with law enforcement personnel. They coordinated with the their own ethnic cohorts to generate bribes to police and judges that allowed those mafias to operate. It was much more difficult for black criminals to do so, and they tended instead to operate as subsidiaries of other ethnic mobs.

                  • Steve-O-in-NJ

                    Actually Bumpy was impressive because he could cut deals with the Italian mob and stay independent, partly because the Italians took out Dutch Schultz.

                • Wasn’t Bumpy Johnson the inspiration for the Boardwalk Empire series’ Chalky White?

                  IMHO a GREAT actor to play Johnson? Ving Rahmes.

                  “O.J.: Made In America” made me think of another flick: “Don King: Only In America,” starring none other than the talented Mr. Rahmes, and he NAILS King.

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_King:_Only_in_America

  6. What has law enforcement leanred from this? Are they doing their best to avoid even the appearance of impropriety?

    We have this previous blog post

  7. I wonder if Rachel Dolezal offered any comnents? Sorry… can’t help but wonder!

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