By Jenee Darden
Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Mike Tyson, Ray Rice, Bill Cosby—all are high profile black men accused of assaulting or violating black women/girls (Cosby’s accusers are mostly white women). Some of these men’s strongest supporters are black women.
In this week’s episode of The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the show brings up the jury’s majority: black women. According to an old USA Today article, eight of the 12 jurors were black women. In the show, lawyers surveyed regular folks before they picked jurors. Black women were turned off by Marcia Clark and found her to be mean. Nicole Brown was just another gold digger in their eyes. But they saw O.J. as handsome, muscular, successful, etc.
The prosecution tried the case as domestic violence. I agree it was a domestic violence case. Marcia Clark has said in interviews that she understood race back then. On the show, Clark (performed by Sarah Paulson), says she worked with battered black women. But what has been missing in the many debates of the O.J. trial is race AND gender as it relates to black women. In discussions of race, people often forget about how gender affects racial experiences. And when discussing gender, race is neglected.
I’ve written a lot about how black women are very loyal to black men. Not all, but many of us. Sometimes we’re loyal to our own detriment. One of the reasons why black women don’treport abusers in domestic violence relationships is because of the racial hardships black men endure. We don’t want to send them into the criminal system. Of course other reasons are because of fear, economic issues, religious beliefs, family pressure, distrust of the legal system etc. But culturally, some black women victims internalize reporting abusers as bringing another brotha down. And we’re not going to “bring down” a successful black man like O.J. His talents got he and his family out of the hood. Yet we black women have our own struggles. Black women are three times more likely to be killed in a violent relationshipthan women of other races. And we experience the highest level of intra-racial violence.
We protect our brothas, even when the evidence is right in our faces. Cases like Ray Rice prove that. There’s video of the football star assaulting his wife and dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. Many black women on social media blamed his wife and assumed she was a gold digger for not leaving him. The same goes with the teen girls R. Kelly slept with and videotaped—it was their fault. Chris Brown and Rihanna—her fault. The women are blamed and these violent scandals are seen as conspiracies to knock a successful brotha down. No doubt, there have been moments when racism kept a high-achieving black men from rising. However, sometimes black women’s loyalty to our black men crosses into internalized misogyny or misogynoir. And we need to educate our women more about domestic violence and rape culture.
The interracial relationship between O.J. and Nicole Brown in this trial also carried historical, racial elements. During and post-slavery black men were beaten or lynched if a white woman cried rape or abuse. Often these white women lied. White men in Mississippi lynched 14-year old Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white girl. I wonder if that crossed the black jurors’ minds (female and male) as well when the prosecution presented domestic violence evidence. Did they feel O.J. was unfairly painted as the black brute who preys on innocent white women?
My grandfather said from the beginning he thought the prosecution would lose because black women weren’t going to let O.J. spend the rest of his life in prison. Maybe he was partly right. I question how much weight black women jurors carried in O.J.’s freedom.
|Cochran giving O.J. a pep talk/sermon|
PART II: Other Things I Noticed
--I needed that Johnny Cochran pep talk when I was struggling with my college calculus class.
--We see an emergence of a stronger 24-hour news cycle.
-- Oh my goodness! Faye Resnick is hella shady. How do write such a scandalous book like that about your murdered friend? The details about the Brentwood Hello, and O.J. watching Nicole have sex with other men—that all fed into the sensationalism. It added more suds to the soap opera the case was turning into.
--My favorite scene in this episode is of the Goldman’s in Marcia Clark’s office. And father Fred Goldman is pouring out how the public isn’t giving his son’s death hardly any attention. He said, “Ron is a footnote to his own murder.” That’s a great line, BUT it didn’t happen. Kim Goldman told Access Hollywood that conversation did not happen. Still, I noticed on Twitter it made viewers pause and remember the victims.