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OPINION

OJ Simpson Trial Not Ancient History

oh jay simpson putting his hands inside the gloves at his nineteen ninety five trial
O.J. Simpson's legacy still has a hand in race and sexism today. (Getty Images)

Susan Estrich By Monday, 22 April 2024 01:09 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Thirty years ago, O.J. Simpson got away with murder. Politics was to blame, in the form of racism and sexism.

His lawyers put the LAPD on trial for racism, even though Simpson himself was not a victim of the police department's racism. That was Rodney King, who was brutally beaten by LAPD officers who were acquitted by a white jury in Simi Valley.

Simpson was a member of the special class of celebrities that in Los Angeles transcended race, and it was ironic that he of all people exploited the injuries of real racism. And of the sexism that applied a double standard when it came to domestic violence, still treating it as if it is not real violence, as if it were something that beloved celebrities were not capable of.

What was perhaps most stunning about the Simpson trial was the depth of the racial divide in the reaction to it. There were two different realities. Pictures captured the reactions of whites and Blacks, and they could not have been more different.

How could what was so obviously wrong to whites be a cause for celebration for Blacks? Did we see the world so differently? We did.

It would be nice to assume that everything has changed since then. Has it?

Certainly, there have been changes in our outlook on domestic violence. New laws have been passed. Police department policies have changed.

Federal funding of domestic violence initiatives, now on the chopping block according to advocates, grew, the Violence Against Women Act was passed, and state and local departments trained officers and prosecutors to deal with domestic violence.

But women continue to be murdered by their intimate partners — between a third and a half of women homicide victims are killed by ex-partners, a percentage that has remained constant for the past three decades even as the number of homicides has dropped from 23,000 in 1994 to 18,000 in 2023.

And the progress that has been made is in jeopardy. California is facing a 43% cut in funding for domestic violence programs.

"It's about to fall apart. All that we built since O.J. can go away," says Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace over Violence, previously the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women.

Shelters are overcrowded. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness: According to a study last summer by the Urban Institute, almost half of all unhoused women in Los Angeles have experienced domestic violence, and roughly 25% left their last residence because of it.

Most domestic violence cases are still prosecuted as misdemeanors, if they are prosecuted at all.

Meanwhile, race and racism continue to infect the criminal justice system, where Black men crowd prisons and unanswered questions shape attitudes of why that is so. Do Blacks commit disproportionate numbers of violent crimes, or does the system disproportionately target them? Or both?

We give lip service to prohibitions on racial profiling, but it is a reality of policing, even as forces have themselves become more diverse. And when we see white officers who have targeted Black men, we remain divided about what we see and how we react.

A system that is racist, or is perceived by parts of the community to be so, is ripe for jury nullification — refusing to convict even when the facts establish guilt.

It would feel good to be able to dismiss the rot that was the Simpson trial as ancient history. But not yet.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2024 CREATORS.COM

© Creators Syndicate Inc.


Estrich
Thirty years ago, O.J. Simpson got away with murder. Politics was to blame, in the form of racism and sexism. His lawyers put the LAPD on trial for racism, even though Simpson himself was not a victim of the police department's racism. That was Rodney King, who was brutally...
oj simpson, racism, sexism, criminal justice
603
2024-09-22
Monday, 22 April 2024 01:09 PM
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