by Skylar Braswell
Growing up, I had heard the name O.J. Simpson constantly in my home. I was born in 1994, when O.J. Simpson went to trial accused of killing his ex wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. I had no clue who he was and as I was growing up, I assumed he was an uncle or distant relative. When he was found guilty of a different crime, I gained the courage to finally ask my mother who he was. She used this moment as what many African American families consider, “The Talk”. She explained to me racial tensions within society, what it meant to commit a murder and police brutality.
“My biggest accomplishment is that people look at me like a man first, not a black man.” - O.J. Simpson, 1969.
Researching his trial and his bio, like my family I began to find Simpson admirable. I understood that he was trying to fix racial tensions and illustrate the struggle of being black in America. Growing up from an impoverished childhood, he wanted to set example for other African Americans. Using his football career, Simpson spoke about how the African American community could improve and become more supported. Though, like others I cannot forget the facts about his murder trial.
“I’m a black guy, always been a black guy, never been nothing but a black guy.”- O.J. Simpson, 2002
The main reason why the trial went viral was because Simpson was a black man convicted of killing his ex wife who happened to be white. Many African Americans were believed to be biased because of his support for the African American community. Based on his dating history, many assumed he had a fetish for white- blonde women and so instead of it being a murder case, it turned into a case regarding race. I believe the reason why my family never forgot about Simpson was because it was sad to see a positive figure’s reputation smeared in the press.
“I was always a good guy, but I could have been a better Christian.” - O.J. Simpson, 2017
I was surprised to hear about Simpson recently because after his second trial, I thought that he was locked up for good. Watching his parole hearing, I researched what others were thinking about the hearing and his first trial. Some wanted him freed because he was getting older and the prison system cannot provide the elderly with basic needs. Others wanted him to stay in prison as punishment for murdering Nicole and Ronald. Though he was found innocent in his murder trial, the world will never forget how racially tense the trial became. I don’t have an opinion about whether he was innocent or guilty. As a millennial, I only see how a case turned from bad to ugly.
"I'm going to take the challenge of helping black kids in every way I can. I believe I can do as much for my own people in my own way as a Tommie Smith, a Jim Brown, or a Jackie Robinson may choose to do in another way. That's part of the image I want, too."- O.J. Simpson, 1996
Many people admired Simpson the same as Bill Cosby. He was the African American father figure many people related. He was a great comedian and gave back to the community. When multiple women went public charging him with sexual assault, it was almost a betrayal. I grew up watching Bill Cosby and it was hard for me to imagine him drugging, raping and sexual assaulting women. Bill Cosby, was another example of a positive figure whose reputation came under fire. As a number of women came forward sharing the same claims against him, it was nearly impossible to continue idolizing Cosby for his acting career and philanthropic efforts.
“There are two sides to every story, and sometimes three, four and five”- Bill Cosby, 2011
So the case wouldn’t be biased and racist, lawyers for both Simpson and Cosby demanded the jury be mainly African American. Could it be possible that these men were not tried correctly because there was too much media attention? Though, both were beloved characters, one cannot deny if there is a crime, there must be justice.