Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Someone Murdered Somebody in Brentwood

by Holly West

We finished watching O.J.: Made in America last night. A few things about it surprised me, including the fact that it's about eight hours long. I don't know where I've been these many months since it was released, but I thought it was a standard-length documentary film.

Not that it matters. I just point it out because others might not know, either.

It's important to note that the documentary is not just about O.J. Simpson and his murder trial. It examines race in America and Los Angeles and how it intersects with who O.J. was, who he became, and who he is now. It's a complicated story that at least deserves the eight-plus hours it takes to tell. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

This post is likely to be a bit random, because my thoughts about O.J. Simpson and the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman are, to an extent, random. In 1994, when the murders happened, I was in my early twenties and living alone in a one-room bachelor apartment in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles. My boyfriend was black. The world was captivated by the O.J. Simpson trial and Los Angeles was obsessed with it, but my memories of my life then, including the O.J. Simpson trial, are random, as memories often are.

Random Thought #1

I'll begin by saying that on June 12, 1993, I had a frightening dream culminating in this image: SOMEONE MURDERED SOMEBODY IN BRENTWOOD was scrawled in blood in the center of a street. That's all I remember. The dream itself was random--at the time, I don't think I'd ever been to Brentwood, though I'd lived in Los Angeles several years by then. There was also no event that prompted the dream. All I know is that I awoke with serious case of the heebie-jeebies and a racing pulse.

On June 12, 1994, a year to the day after I had that dream, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in Brentwood. It's possible I'm exaggerating for effect here, as I'm not 100% sure of the date of my dream, but I do know it was in mid-June the year before. So let's just say it happened on the same day. When I heard about the murders, the dream was the first thing I thought of and I still think of it whenever the subject of the murders comes up.

Random Thought #2

I mentioned above that my boyfriend at the time was black, and about ten years older than me. I loved him, but even then I knew things weren't destined to work out between us. I'm paraphrasing now, because I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but in reference to O.J. Simpson's trial, he told me he thought maybe the jury should let O.J. off because he was black. Like maybe O.J.'s guilt or innocence was less important than balancing the scales of justice in favor of blacks, for once.

This conversation isn't why we eventually broke up, but I was surprised he'd suggest such a thing. I wasn't a football fan, but I'd grown up seeing O.J. on television and I liked who I perceived him to be. I didn't want it to be true that he killed Nicole and Ron, but I wasn't prepared to throw reality out the door just because I wanted him to be innocent. To me, an acquittal of O.J. Simpson just didn't seem an appropriate response to racial injustice.

Now, having watched O.J. Simpson: Made in America, I realize how clueless I was as to what was going on at the time and to the events (like the Rodney King beating) that led up to O.J.'s eventual acquittal. Granted, I was young, and as a white girl raised in small town Whiteville, I had only the vaguest notions of what racial injustice actually meant. There's no question I accepted it as truth, but I didn't have an understanding of how it plays out in every day lives. I still strive to understand.

Random Thought #3

Around the time of the trial, my mom was having a conversation about it with some coworkers and one of them (a white male) said something along the lines of "that's what Nicole gets for being with a black man." Horrifying, right? My mom set him straight, but I'm still furious when I think about it.

Random Thought #4

There is very little doubt in my mind that O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Reliving the trial through O.J.: Made in America hits home just how much evidence there was against him. He's no hero of mine, especially since we also know he routinely abused his wives and probably others. And yet, there's still a part of me that wishes it wasn't him that did it.

Random Thought #5

There were aspects O.J. Simpson's story that reminded me of Donald Trump and the times we're living in now. I'd have to watch it again to be more specific, but just know I saw some similarities/parallels both in behavior and attitude between the two men.

Final Thoughts

It's always difficult for me to write about race because it's a complicated subject and I wonder if my voice is relevant to the discussion. I'm also afraid of saying the wrong thing. I'm aware this blog post isn't any sort of detailed examination of the subject, but I'm not sure I'm prepared (or qualified) for an in depth discussion. I might not ever be. I only want to say that O.J.: Made in America was important for me to watch and I think it's important for others to see, too.

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