By Brenda Robinson
Twenty years ago, the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, were found brutally murdered outside her Brentwood, California home. Seven days after the June 12, 1994 murders, Simpson was charged with the crimes. A generation of Americans have gone from birth to young adults, since those horrific crimes were committed. Thus, on the 20th anniversary of this termed crime of the century, it is appropriate to focus on lessons learned.
Firstly, that bizarre chase. Ninety-five million people watched as O.J., the juice, drove his white Ford Bronco through Los Angeles freeways. Amazingly, law enforcement officials followed him, via car and helicopter, and seemingly were just as caught up in the hype as the citizen spectators. People along the freeway partied and held up signs reading, “run O.J. run.” Deputies ordered Cowlings to stop the car and throw out the keys. Cowlings responded, “O.J. is in the back with a gun to his head, threatening suicide.” Cowlings continued driving. Law enforcement patiently followed the Bronco over 60 miles of L.A. freeway. When the Ford Bronco, by choice of the driver, was driven by Cowlings into O.J.’s Brentwood mansion, O.J. was taken into custody.
What are the lessons learned from the chase? Simpson was a celebrity, had virtually crossed color-lines, and in the minds of the majority of Americans and law enforcement worthy of consideration not privy to ordinary citizens. However, sentiments regarding celebrities have changed since 1994. Enterprising reporters, the quest for breaking news, and the liberal approach to refrain from special treatment for the rich and famous, eliminates some celebrity protection, and rightfully so.
Secondly, this football icon who set a single-season NFL rushing record with 2,003 yards while playing for the Buffalo Bills, had essentially disconnected with the black community and culture. whether real or imaginary, ordinary black folks viewed O.J. as a man who had lost touch with his roots. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a black professor at Harvard Law School and drector of Harvard’s Houston Institute for Race and Justice made these statements:
“He (O.J.) did not spend time in the black community and was not deeply committed to African American values. In fact, he talked more about being an American than an African American.”
What are the lessons learned from O.J.’s disconnect? African Americans remained loyal to O.J., declaring his innocence, despite O.J.’s black community rejection. There is and must be a certain degree of connectiveness among minority groups, regardless of lifestyle or economics. Michael Eric Dyson, professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and author of books on race, put it in perspective. Dyson dissected the black response:
“We have found some vindication and guess what white America, it was a black man that you loved. It was with a black man you said was better. He wasn’t a trouble maker, he didn’t cause racial controversy. The very guy you thought was so perfect, turns out to be the one that turned on you.”
Thirdly and finally, and perhaps the most important lesson learned is the behavior and
response of O.J.’s lifelong friend, Al Cowlings. O.J., the 1973 Heisman Trophy recipient, sports commentator, actor, and convicted felon, struck gold with his established friendship with Cowlings. He drove O.J. That’s just about all could be reported. Cowlings played in the NFL from 1970 to 1979 and reportedly, at one time, was worth 11 million dollars. Reportedly, Cowlings is now broke and works as a handbag salesman in Los Angles. Yet, Cowlings refuses interviews and offers to write a book about O.J. Cowlings was charged with “aiding a fugitive” for driving O.J. in that famous white Bronco chase. Charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
The last public sighiting of Cowlings and Simpson was in the driveway of Simpson’s home, following his not guilty verdict. The two men embraced and cried. The last reported verbal message from Cowlings was reported by a CNN commentator, last week. The media had pleaded with Cowlings to consent to an interview. Cowlings reported response was, “I’m an old man now, please leave me alone.”
A poem by an unknown author reflects the Cowlings/Simpson relationship:
I know he has faults by the billions, but his faults are a portion of him.
But, he’s always been fair with yours truly, ready to give or to lend.
I never make diagrams of him, no maps of his soul have I penned,
I don’t analyze – I just love him, because, well because he is my friend.
Let us all try to imitate Cowlings’ loyalty.