The Darden Dilemma, N-Word and Racial Backlash Against Chris Darden’s Daughter: Episode 5 The People Vs. O.J. Simpson
|That prosecutor life ain't easy. |
We’ve reached the halfway mark of the series! It’s going by so fast. Make sure to read until the end because I have some information about that “nigga please” scene between Cochran and my dad.
This week’s episode (directed by John Singleton) starts to dip into the backlash my father faced from the black community when he joined the prosecution.
Actor Sterling K. Brown, who plays my father Chris Darden, made me a little emotional during the scene when he asked his superior if he could do interviews with the black press. Black folks were calling my father a sellout. Cochran fanned the flames in interviews insinuating my father was a token
It’s true that my father did go to DA Gil Garcetti and asked to get linked up with the black press, but was told no. Looking at this as a media professional, I wonder if communicating with the black press would’ve made my father’s life much easier at that time. Maybe black folks could’ve learned more about him as a person, instead of defaulting him to a traitor. I don’t think his media interactions would’ve swayed black people’s support from Simpson. But they might of eased off of my father. The shunning from the black community weighed heavy on him. Other black prosecutors labeled my father’s struggle as a black prosecutor the "Darden Dilemma."
From my father’s memoir InContempt:
“I understand that some black prosecutors have a name for the pressure they feel from those in the community who criticize them for standing up and convicting black criminals. They call it the "Darden Dilemma'."
That passage, like much of "In Contempt," resonates with anger, sorrow, defiance and pain. The pain
One of the reasons why my father became a prosecutor was to help the black community. Like the quote from him above, we have criminals in our communities too. There are rapists, murderers, child molesters, kidnappers, child sex traffickers, adults pimping children, batterers, rogue cops etc and they are terrorizing our communities. Should we let them continue to make our neighborhoods and homes unsafe because they’re black?
I agree that those accused deserve a right to a fair trial and legal representation. We need black lawyers on the defense and the prosecution sides.
There’s the Darden Dilemma and there’s what I call Darden Daughter Dilemma. That’s when the backlash your father received from his involvement in a high -profile case, spills into your own life. You know, guilty by association. A few years after Johnnie Cochran died, I interviewed for a position at a black newspaper in Los Angeles. When I walked into their headquarters, there were photos of Cochran on the wall. I rarely told people about my father and I damn sure wasn’t going to say anything then. I interviewed with a panel of black journalists. The interview was going well. They were impressed with my personality and USC education, interning at Time in Europe, covering the 7/7 bombings in London, my clips, etc. When I say it went well, we laughed during the interview. Then an African man on the panel noticed my last name and asked if I was related to Christopher Darden.
I could lie and say “no” but they’re journalists. They would eventually figure me out. Or I’ll be honest since they got to know me for me. I chose the truth. Instantly, all of their smiles disappeared, with the exception of the African man. The room got quiet and they ended the interview. The African man kindly escorted me out. I followed up with the newspaper to see if they were still interested in me. They didn’t return my calls or emails.
During the O.J. trial, I was a 15-year-old kid, living in East Oakland, wearing overalls and obsessed with the group TLC. Maybe they felt like they avenged O.J. by not considering me for the job. If people held a grudge against me for something my father did 10+ years ago, I wonder if talking to the black press back would’ve made a difference. It speaks to how much the case meant to people.
What Really Went Down?
Twitter turned into the playground during the scene where Cochran turns to my TV dad and says, “Nigga please.” I could imagine the “Ooooohs” from people on Twitter as if they were kids watching a fight. This was following my TV dad’s request to the court that the n-word be removed from the trial. I asked my dad if that “nigga please” comment happen and he said it did not happen.
The O.J. Trial introduced wording into our everyday language. I believe the term “n-word” actually came from the trial. My father requesting the n-word be banned from the court was true.
I want to more grrrrr in my father’s character. My father is from Richmond, Calif. He grew up in the hood and can be tough. Sterling K. Brown says we’ll see more of that side in future episodes.
I need to find out if the Dream Team staged O.J.’s house to look more Afrocentric. O.J. popping off at my dad for sitting on his bench is true.
Speaking of homes, somebody get African art to my TV dad’s house! I do not like that bland art in my TV dad’s bedroom. My father had a bachelor pad, but he displayed black art on his walls and tables. And he had some kind of black music playing whether it was Earth, Wind and Fire or Hammer.
That’s all I got for you this week. I’m ready for episode 6.