O.J. Simpson’s trial divided the nation. What legacy does he go away behind? : Contemplate This from NPR

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O.J. Simpson died this week at 76 years outdated. Myung Chun/AFP through Getty Pictures conceal caption

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Myung Chun/AFP through Getty Pictures

- O.J. Simpson's trial divided the nation. What legacy does he go away behind? : Contemplate This from NPR

O.J. Simpson died this week at 76 years outdated.

Myung Chun/AFP through Getty Pictures

You are studying the Contemplate This article, which unpacks one main information story every day. Subscribe right here to get it delivered to your inbox, and hearken to extra from the Contemplate This podcast.

1. For a lot of his profession, O.J. Simpson symbolized a post-racial America.

Orenthal James Simpson, referred to as O.J., died on Wednesday aged 76 after battling most cancers.

Simpson was a soccer icon, an NFL corridor of famer and a trailblazer. He starred in commercials, like this 1978 Hertz advert. The Hertz marketing campaign, which ran for years, was one of many first occasions an American viewers noticed a Black spokesperson for a significant nationwide firm. Simpson later went on to develop into a film star.

O.J. Simpson Hertz business.

YouTube

Since his early days within the NFL, when requested about his emotions on points just like the civil rights motion, he’d say: “I am not Black. I am O.J.!

Dave Zirin, the sports activities editor at The Nation, instructed NPR that Simpson linked this post-racial concept to financial success: “It was linked in his thoughts to really being unshackled by racism. And it was linked in his thoughts to being a celeb first and any form of spokesperson for a trigger second.”

2. Simpson grew to become an emblem of America’s difficult relationship to race, movie star and justice.

In 1994, he was accused of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her buddy Ronald Goldman. The case and ensuing trial captivated the nation.

It got here simply two years after the acquittal of 4 Los Angeles Law enforcement officials. The officers had been charged with extreme pressure within the beating and arrest of Rodney King, a Black man. That acquittal led to 6 days of riots all through Los Angeles.

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Zirin says the Simpson trial was a large Rorschach check, in that what you considered the trial spoke to what you believed about racism, police corruption, gender, home abuse and a two-tiered justice system that favors the rich and well-known.

“Folks had robust opinions and opposing opinions about all of those matters. So O.J., who at all times noticed himself as this sort of determine of unity in the US, impulsively grew to become this determine of profound polarization, the place what you mentioned about O.J. and the case truly indicated what you believed about an entire host of different incendiary matters.”

3. Three a long time later what is the legacy of the OJ Simpson trial?

Simpson’s acquittal divided the nation.

Zirin says the decision grew to become like an early type of a social media algorithm, with folks turning on one another instantaneously based mostly upon what they felt the case mentioned about the US.

“It was strongly divided amongst racial traces, as a result of within the Black neighborhood, after they seemed on the trial, what they noticed before everything was Los Angeles with its personal historical past of police corruption … they noticed cops who engaged in actions or previous commentaries that had been racist,” he mentioned.

“And it made folks say, effectively, wait a minute, possibly this is not nearly O.J. possibly that is a couple of broader corruption amongst police and a broader racism in U.S. society. Whereas an entire different aspect was saying, effectively, wait a minute, what about Nicole Brown Simpson? What about Ronald Goldman? The place is the justice for them?”

To Zirin, the legacy of this trial is division and recognition.

“If we did not have [recognition] earlier than, we actually had it after the trial — that totally different folks see this nation in profoundly other ways. And talking a couple of United States of America is usually a pipe dream at occasions.”

For sponsor-free episodes of Contemplate This, join Contemplate This+ through Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org. Electronic mail us at [email protected].

This episode was produced by Marc Rivers, Kat Lonsdorf and Kathryn Fink. It was edited by Courtney Dorning and Sarah Handel. Our government producer is Sami Yenigun.

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