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. Continue reading