Wednesday, March 30, 2005

White people, shut the fuck up about O.J.

Usually when someone passes away, I try to maintain a polite level of discourse around their death; hence the diplomatic title.

With the passing of Johnnie Cochran, the nation loses a formidable crusader for equal rights and equal "protection" under the law. This is man who devoted his life to fighting racial profiling and police abuse and brutality. While the media covered his big-name cases defending black celebrities, Cochran spent more of his time and energy winning cases for working-class African Americans who had been vicitims of law enforcement.

The fact that he will be forever remembered as "The O.J. guy" speaks volumes about the lack of perspective in both the general white community and the media that serves it. For me this took an absurb quality when I found that O.J. was brought up in my Social Studies Methods education class by my affluent suburban, primarily white classmates whenever racial issues were discussed. In one brilliant classroom presentation of Lisa Delphit's book "Other people's children", the presenting group actually closed with a mock book burning and a doll caricature of Cochran burned in effigy.

How bizarre is it for a community to view the murder of one white woman somewhere to be far greater of an atrocity than daily and often fatal brutalization of entire groups of people on the basis of their ethnicity by the very mechanism in society designed to exact "justice"? The holocaust? Shit, that's nothing! There was this rich black guy once who killed some white woman and the court system didn't allow the police to set him up! It was the worst thing ever!

I was appalled that these future Social Studies teachers would have such loud, unresearched opinions on the case and the "stupidity of the jurors" and basically miss the entire point of the defense's case--that the LAPD was not justified in using unconstitutional methods to hunt down a black man even if he may have been guilty. The jury understood this, many folks of color understood this but also understood the corollary--Johnnie Cochran could not be everywhere and could not prevent police attacking people of color in the vast majority of cases.

Today that is the grim reality we face--police forces, judges and prosecutors who are just as bigoted in their application of the law as they were last week, but with no Johnnie Cochran to stand between us and them...

...and a white nation of millions gleeful at this prospect.


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