Racial Harmony in America: O.J. Did What?


Simpson was just a wealthy abuser who got away with murder

Janell Ross reports: Black and white Americans seem to agree on very little these days, if it has anything at all to do with race and the criminal justice system. But new data from a Washington Post-ABC News poll has identified an issue once regarded as a key barometer of America’s racial divide where that divide has been closed.

We’re talking, of course, about O.J. Simpson.

The share of Americans who believe that Simpson was “definitely” or “probably” guilty of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman is moving in the same direction across racial lines. A majority of both sides agree that he was at least “probably” guilty,” and never before have black and white Americans been closer to agreement.

Now to be clear, 20 years after the jury announced its June 1995 not-guilty verdict in Simpson’s criminal trial, white and black opinion on this matter remains pretty divided. A full 83 percent of white Americans said that they are “definitely” or “probably” sure of Simpson’s guilt. By contrast, 57 percent of black Americans agreed.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

But what’s noteworthy here is that both figures have reached an all-time high and are moving in the same direction, despite two successive summers in which questions of possible police misconduct and systemic racial disparities in the criminal justice system — issues very real in the Simpson case — have occupied the headlines.

The Washington Post‘s astute polling team points out that part of the change might well be driven by technical changes. The specific wording of the question about Simpson’s guilt changed just slightly over the course of the 21 years that The Post-ABC poll has queried Americans on this issue. Also, in 1997, a civil jury found Simpson liable for the deaths of Brown Simpson and Goldman. (Notice those 1997 uptick in the trend lines up above. That a civil court found Simpson responsible and that his punishment involved a court-ordered multimillion-dollar payout might have shaped public perception at the time.) Of course it’s also true that, over the next decade, white America’s confidence in Simpson’s criminal culpability declined while black America’s grew.

Much of black America initially read the verdict as a cause for celebration — that the system that advantages the wealthy and the white had, in this instance, set a very rich black man free. For white Americans, some of whom were no doubt less familiar with or at least personally affected by a criminal justice system that today is increasingly viewed as less fair to African Americans, Simpson was just a wealthy and abusive black man who might have gotten away with murder…(read more)

Source: The Washington Post

One Comment on “Racial Harmony in America: O.J. Did What?”

  1. Mark Bond says:

    Reblogged this on e-Roll Call Magazine.

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