Why The O.J. Simpson Verdict Still Matters After His Death

mugshot of oj simpson
Leslie Grover-Taylor
April 12, 2024

On October 3, 1995, actor and football player O.J. Simpson heard along with the rest of the world two words that would divide Black America for years: “Not guilty.” But nearly three decades later, the case of the Black man who argued that he was more than Black still draws a divide. 

 And not just a Black and white one.

To some, Simpson’s victory felt like a decades-long war won against the LAPD, a police department that has historically brutalized Black communities and still does today. 

 Many felt compelled to defend Simpson as a stand-in for all Black people abused by the system. But not everyone.

Others, including many who want to reform or even abolish the criminal legal system, balked at the idea of considering Simpson’s win “Black excellence.” “The support of Simpson was a step backward,” wrote Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2016, who remembered Simpson’s record of domestic abuse.

 So how do we feel? How should we feel?

When we encounter cases like Simpson’s, we don’t have to argue someone’s “innocence” to challenge the criminal legal system.

We can criticize the harsh criminal justice system and still acknowledge that crimes can happen within the Black community too. True Black liberation isn't just about getting the same leniency that white people might receive; it's about completely overturning a system that's set up to work against us.

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