Conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams tells Newsmax TV that people should learn from the O.J. Simpson murder trial nearly 18 years ago and "act like Americans" if accused murderer George Zimmerman is set free in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
"O.J. Simpson was acquitted for allegations of killing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. Many people were outraged with that verdict. I was one of them. Did you see anybody burn down cities? Did you see any riots? Did you see any violence? No.
"And so these Americans who would feel outraged if Zimmerman is acquitted should learn from how Americans behaved when O.J. Simpson was set free and we accepted the verdict," asserted Williams in an exclusive interview. "Act like Americans. That's our jury system. We must respect it and move on."
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Simpson was a former pro football player, actor, and sports commentator who was acquitted by a Los Angeles jury in October 1995 in connection with the grisly stabbing murders of his ex-wife and her friend after one of the most publicized and racially charged criminal trials in U.S. history. It was subsequently dubbed the "trial of the century."
As a Florida jury deliberates the fate of Zimmerman in the death of the 17-year-old, some Florida communities are already bracing for possible riots should the former neighborhood watch captain be acquitted.
"That's our jury system. We must respect it and move on," said Williams, a Newsmax contributor and the author of "Reawakening Virtues."
"And if anybody defies that, if they are committing violence and burning, they should be arrested and punished to the full extent of the law — absolutely."
Williams, the African-American host of "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams," said that he does not believe the Zimmerman case is about race.
"George Zimmerman's case was about profiling," he said. "It was about a young man who was in the wrong neighborhood. This guy saw himself as the police cop — as the security for the neighborhood. He became frightened. He had a gun. I own guns. There's a certain bravado that a gun gives you. There's a certain security that a gun gives you. There's a certain confidence that a gun gives you. When you have a gun on you, it changes you whether you realize it or not."
He said Zimmerman pursued Martin "in defiance" of authorities, who told him to wait until police arrived.
"It appears that Trayvon was getting the best of him and if somebody's holding you and beating you down and you realize you've got a weapon on you, and you're in your neighborhood and they're not in their neighborhood, and it's your job to protect your neighborhood, nine times out of 10 you may think you're going to use that weapon to scare them — but he used that gun," explained Williams, who believes the prosecution did a poor job in presenting its case.
"That's why George Zimmerman is going to be acquitted. I don't think George Zimmerman should be acquitted. He should be charged with something," asserted Williams.
If the Zimmerman case has rekindled racial tensions in the United States, the declining health of former South African President Nelson Mandela highlights a much deeper and "ugly racism" that still exists in the African nation more than two decades after the government's official policy of apartheid was abolished in 1990.
Williams, who interviewed Mandela and got to know his family when Mandela was released from his 27-year imprisonment, said Mandela taught him a lesson in forgiveness.
"I'll never forget when the time came for me to interview him. I was very calm and we sat down and I was asking him questions and he told me about prison life and how these prison guards would reinforce their authority to show they were in control," recalled Williams. “But the first thing he said afterward was 'forgiveness.'"
Mandela told him that he forgave the people who tortured him, who put him in prison and treated him as less than subhuman.
"And then you got to love them. You got to learn to respect them because then you become bigger than they are and you show them how little and pathetic they are because they don't do anything to help their society by keeping their brethren down," he recalled Mandela saying. "They destroy society by believing that they can own their brother and treat their brothers as slaves."
Williams said he could feel himself seething with anger and hatred as Mandela recounted his harsh treatment at the hands of his jailers.
“I was thinking, ‘Here is a man who's in prison for 27 years and here he is talking about forgiveness. Here he is talking about loving his enemies. Here he is talking about peace,’ and all of a sudden I can feel the hatred that had begun to seep into my heart just gradually slip away ... before that afternoon luncheon was over," said Williams.
Racism, he said, is still a fact of daily life in South Africa.
"There's so much more that is necessary to turn that situation around, and you know it can't even compare to the United States," he observed. "They're just so far away from economic freedom, from individual and human rights. They're just so far removed from it because the violence and the anger continues to rule the day."
He said America remains the "shining city on the hill" by comparison to South Africa and other countries.
"I believe 90 percent of racism in this country, God eradicated," he said. "But there's always going to be that pocket of ignorance from people who have not moved beyond negative judgment about someone because of the hue of their skin. But America's still the shining city on the hill. We have President Barack Obama, who just happens to be the first American black elected president."
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