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Jemele Hill: O.J. Simpson's Death Is a Reminder of the Racial Rift That His Trial Exposed

Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP

So this will be the third post this editor has done on O.J. Simpson's death, and black intellectuals all seem to have settled on the same take … yes, Simpson was guilty as hell, but his acquittal exposed the racist roots of the U.S. justice system.

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First of all, they all seem to think that Simpson had abandoned the black community and did not represent them. He was Marc Lamont Hill's take:

NBC News' Michelle Garcia talked to Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree Jr., who called Simpson "raceless." "He was not a person who spent time in African American communities. He was not a person who was deeply committed to African American values," Ogletree said.

And now Jemele Hill writes in The Atlantic,"I’ve found that Simpson was not the cultural fixture in the Black community that some white people assumed he was, and apparently continue to assume he is. As Simpson liked to tell people, 'I’m not Black, I’m O.J.' I took Simpson at his word and so did many others."

Black elites apparently agree that Simpson was a horrible person who abandoned the black community and murdered two people and got away with it, and yet the black community celebrated his acquittal: Journalist Jasmyne Cannick wrote, "'He symbolized the Black man and the criminal justice system at the time … Him beating the case, at the time, was everybody beating the case. We finally won one."

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O.J. Simpson got away with murder, literally, but "we finally won one."

Hill writes:

But as I watched the verdict on the TV in our college newsroom, I immediately understood why some of the white staffers on the paper reacted with visible disgust—and why a lot of my Black friends felt relieved, even joyous, that Simpson had been found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Although back in 1995, everyone was aware of the racial divide in this country, the trial provided stark evidence of just how sharp it was.

Put simply, he was a once-great athlete who turned out to be a terrible person. The mingled legacy of his celebrity and criminality is that his murder trial forced our country into difficult conversations—particularly about domestic violence and how, regardless of race, fame can protect people like Simpson from consequences. Above all, though, Simpson’s death is a reminder of how far this country still has to go to heal the racial rift that his murder trial so mercilessly exposed.

Once more, just so we get it straight: O.J. Simpson was a terrible person who abandoned the black community, but the black community celebrated his acquittal in the streets because it was a victory over the racist justice system.

What?

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Precisely. Simpson was a horrible human being who deserted his race, but his getting away with double murder made white people mad.

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