Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Three Black Men

O.J., Dollar Bill Jefferson and Barack Hussein Obama.

The killer, the crook and the politician.

The Holy Trinity of blackness in today's America.

At first glance, these three men don't have much in common. They aren't friends or confidants. You don't think of one when you mention the other.

But, there is a connection there.

First, let's discuss the killer. Most people in America believe O.J. did it. They think he killed his wife and her lover in cold blood and then skated at trial because of crafty lawyer and black people's racism. That's the popular explanation of why O.J. was a free man the past 13 years instead of sitting on death row.

O.J., and his trial, became a rallying point for white people who wanted to harp on black racism as a way to disguise their own prejudices. He was the ultimate bogeyman. White people, with the help of the mainstream media, hounded this man year after year in what they felt was a fair exchange for his acquittal. They believed he didn't deserve to be free, so anything that happened to him was his own fault.

And then he decided to take his shit back. Yep, that's what his case boiled down too. He went to a hotel room to get back some stuff somebody stole from him and he brought some friends and a gun. He made a choice that many people can relate too, and he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping. He now faces at least 9 years in prison, and possibly 18. White people across the country must think Christmas came early.

Now, let's discuss Dollar Bill. I won't say much about his case or its merits, but I do want to talk about the mood surrounding this election. Jefferson has been in Congress for generations and was once one of the most important black people in my city. He is no angel, but he was always a well-known and respected figure.

He's just a joke now. Someone to be gawked at and disdained. There has been a concentrated effort by many white people in this community to turn him into proof that evil surely follows allowing black people to gain power. Without being convicted, he has been labeled a common criminal by the same folks that love to discuss the mishandling of the Duke lacrosse case.

So what does that have to do with Big Homie? I think his election means we'll be seeing a lot more of stuff like this.

Some might argue that none of this is connected. They would note that the only reason Jefferson survived his run-off against Helena Moreno was because people came out to vote for Obama. In truth, they would say that it's amazing that an indicted politician survived so long. And of course they'll point out that O.J. was a simpleton who stretched his luck one too many times.

But, that's not considering the big picture. Those of us who have paid attention have noticed a steady increase in the targeting of black people as bogeymen in recent years. Sure, that practice never disappeared from American culture, but it had waned a bit. Things are now heading in the opposite direction.

It's evident in the way the foibles of black athletes are covered by the mainstream media and the missteps of white athletes are glossed over. It's clear in the way the coverage of corruption changes depending on the color of the suspected politician. Black criminality has always been a money maker, but these days, people are searching high and low to make that criminality a big issue.

And, it's because of Obama.

Obama is the opposite of a black male stereotype in so many ways. Educated, soft-spoken and non-threatening, he does not easily fit into the normal little box. And, unlike many other black men who challenge black stereotypes, Obama has maintained an air of authenticity that has endeared him to black folks across this country. He really does appear to have figured out how to play the game, and not get played.

And, I'm beginning to wonder what that means for the rest of us. The tightrope Obama walks is one he is uniquely suited to balance upon and I doubt the rest of could manage his highwire act. If all black people are expected to "be Obama" that is an unfair and unjust burden, just like expecting all white people to be John Brown would be unfair to them.

Truthfully, I expected a certain segment of the population to feel discouraged and angry about an Obama victory, but I didn't believe they had the power to touch most of us. Their petty insults or pranks would be nothing. Now, I'm not so sure.

I always suspected Obama's victory would be followed by a push by certain white folks to roll back some of the advances black people have made, particularly those aided by affirmative action, but I didn't realize how far-reaching that push might be. Even "liberal" white people felt vindicated by O.J.'s conviction. You know, the white folks who have tons of black friends and don't see color. Those same folks were ok with Jefferson being treated like a criminal despite never being convicted.

They were ok with perversions of the legal system because they figured the right "black" guy got his just desserts.

I think we will continue to see black people punished much more harshly when the mob decides that they have messed up. It will be justified with the lame explanation that everyone is being treated the same, that everybody who does the crime should do the time. We will be told that Obama's election is proof that racism is nearly a thing of the past and that white people should not have their motives questioned because "they" elected a black president.

We will be told to sit down, shut up and take our medicine.

Just like O.J. and Dollar Bill.


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9 comments:

Deacon Blue said...

I agree with you that the black booegyman archetype is alive and well and still being trotted out. And that it shouldn't be.

That said, I have zero sympathy for O.J.

I don't see him as a boogeyman personally. I'm not even so mad that he got off the original murder case; Robert Blake did the same. They're both assholes and both probably got away with murder. They did good with their lawyers and they had celebrity on their side. Nothing new there.

But O.J. was such a package deal of douchebaggery that I can't feel any sympathy for any reason. This is a man who vowed to search for the "real killer" of Nicole and then spent his time on the golf courses, a popular hiding place for killers. He wrote a book "If I Did It..." He pulled that nonsense in Vegas. He did lots of other idiocy in between on a smaller scale.

If ever a man was begging to be put back in jail, this was that case. Black or not.

I agree with you that white American unfairly used him as a touchpoint for their own race issues and bigotry.

But O.J. is an idiot who dodged prison the first time and didn't have sense enough to stay out of the limelight.

That said, I still like the way you weaved these three together for your post.

Big Man said...

Deac, thanks for the comment. And the rant I'm about to write is not directed at you personally.

I'm not asking for sympathy for OJ.

I just find it interesting that white people could be so outraged when he was freed because they felt the justice system was corrupted, but be ok with the fact that that justice system was clearly corrupted in this case. OJ was charged with more serious crimes than the average avender and received a longer jail sentence then the average offender. Clearly, this was about what white people thought he did in 1995, not what he did in Vegas.

To me, that's unacceptable. Black people still catch flak about "letting OJ free," but white people think they should get a pass for locking him up in a perversion of our justice system. That's so typical in so many ways.

You can't bitch and moan about fairness in the justice system when you don't get your way and then turn around and behave in an unfair manner just because it suits your purpose.

Sure, it's terrible that Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were killed. And if you believe OJ did it, then I can see how that would upset you. But, I can't understand how so many people could be upset that a jury of his peers found him innocent when they watched it proven in open court that police clearly lied and planted evidence in order to frame him. This was a fact that no one has disputed.

And, the question that raises is why is white America content with the idea that the police plant evidence and lie to get people convicted? Why doesn't white America have a problem with this state of affairs, particularly since it's resulted in the deaths countless black men? That's why black people were happy when OJ was released. Not because we loved him, but because for once, when the police lied and cheated they weren't able to defeat a black man.

But, nobody wanted to hear that. They wanted to talk about to two dead white people. But what about all those dead and suffering black people?

They don't count?

Deacon Blue said...

I don't take the rant personally.

You're closer to the criminal sentencing scene than I am, and I don't know typical sentencing guidelines...but I'm not surprised he got a longer sentence. It's NOT right, and it's a common thing to do to black, brown and tan folks, even when "payback" isn't an issue.

So, he probably shouldn't have gotten as much time as he did...but he definitely needed to do a real stretch of some sort. For the record, I think Wesley Snipes, despite his idiocy, is another example of over-setencing probably.

And I hear you about the revenge factor and the unfairness of that. Frankly, I was never outraged at OJ's acquittal. It hardly registered on my radar. The only thing that outraged me was his attitude and actions after dodging that bullet, over a course of many years. I'm a big believer in counting my blessings, and were I him, I would have counted them in silence instead of continuing to rub everyone's face in it, which is kinda what he did.

So, we may disagree on some fine points, but I agree with you overall.

the uppity negro said...

@Big Man

OJs sentence fit with that of Clark County convictions.

Im an OJ apologist, youll see the posts i write soon as i get home and get done with these damn finals.

But, given this paramount arrest of a governor that I voted for in my home state, I think we've entered a time where the American public is fed up with corrupt politicians. we dealt with it before because conditions were liveable. Well, with an economy in the tank and folks losing jobs, the American public isnt in the mood for politicians raping them blind for money and power. So it should be no shock that Jefferson or Kilpatrick or even Marion Berry for that matter get sent up the river. Even back in Chicago there were many alderman who got locked up on bribery charges and what not.

Also, we're in a day and age where there are more black politicians, ergo, more black politicians to get caught. However, black politicians seem to think they can do the same thing white politicans do and get away with it.

But, for some reason you dont see this and id be interested to see what your reasoning is, but wrong is wrong, what i say to Blagojevich and to Jefferson or to Kilpatrick is LOCK THEM UP! You seem to almost be saying there's a personal vendetta by US Dist. Attys to go after black politicians. But I ask the question whats wrong with going after black politicians who are guilty of crimes? we most certainly wouldnt want a white politician doing it, why would we let it slide if a black politician do it. Are you suggesting that this is our form of semi reparations?

Lorraine said...

Oh Big Man, I so co-sign this post!! I absolutely agree with you.

Are you subscribed to "This Week In Blackness" on Youtube? If you aren't you should be--it's great stuff!! The host, Elon James White, talked a little bit about this after Obama was elected:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gje57nm2u6k

Big Man said...

Uppity

I"m not suggesting lack black folks slide when they break the law. I'm suggesting that we treat black politicians the same way we treat white politicians. Period.

If we're going after one, we go after the other. If we let one slide we let the other slide.

More importantly, I'm tired of people using the actions of black politicians as proof that black people are not fit to lead. Or that we ruin cities. I'm tired of the way black politicians are villified to a much higher degree than white politicians. I'm just tired of double standards and racist logic.

Imhotep said...

Deacon, got to disagree with your statement "But O.J. is an idiot who dodged prison the first time and didn't have sense enough to stay out of the limelight."

How did he dodge prison? It's not like he got a pardon or a suspended sentence. He was found innocent by a jury of his peers. BTW they were not all Black either.He did not dodge a damn thing, justice pervailed!

Why should he avoid the limelight? So as not to raise the ire of white folks? The arrogance of white folks will not allow them to entertain the thought that OJ was in fact innocent. White folks fail to understand that the police setting up (planting evidence, lying, intimidating) Black men is the norm not the exception.

Now that an injustice has been delt to OJ, white folks are fine with that. Will not get a peep out of them!

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Deacon Blue said...

Imhotep,

Points taken. And while I was never outraged by his acquital, my opinion may be tainted by what I saw as his attitude toward the whole thing, which spoke to me of guilt. And it's not because he's black. There have been some high-profile cases of white guys since then who've almost certainly knocked off their wives and sometimes gotten off (or gotten off with easier sentences than they deserved), and some of them I felt were guilty as hell from the get-go simply based on their attitudes.

Everything about O.J.'s treatment of the situation, since he was first charged, speaks of phoniness and lies. Again, the "I'm going to begin the search for the real killer" followed by a trip to the golf course the next day, if I recall right (or pretty close to it) speaks volumes to me. He never seemed to care about anything but his own ass.

I shouldn't judge, but sometimes I do. I'm only human. I suspect O.J. was guilty and got off, and more power to him for it...and I understand why many black folks celebrated that acquital even if they suspected he was guilty...but I still say he dodged a bullet. And was very fortunate.

And while I don't think he needed to hunker down his ENTIRE life, I think penning a book "If I Did It" and leading an armed raid on a hotel room in Vegas rank as among the stupidest things for someone to do when he knows much of America still has a target painting on his back.

Raving Black Lunatic