At the end of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial on October 3, 1995, it was clear that a dividing line had been placed between those who rejoiced at his acquittal and those who thought he’d gotten away with double murder.
Largely, the line was racial.
People who were black almost inevitably believed that Simpson had been wrongly accused, wrongly tried, and rightfully acquitted of murdering his ex-wife – and mother of his two minor children then asleep in the house mere yards from the brutally gruesome murder scene – Nicole Brown Simpson and a young man who barely knew her, Ronald Goldman.
People who were white almost inevitably believed the opposite, that Simpson – who had led a much-televised low-speed chase sequence through Los Angeles, threatening to commit suicide in a car in which police later found $8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded gun, a passport, and a fake goatee and mustache – had been rightfully accused and tried in the horrific deaths, and wrongfully acquitted. (A 1997 civil case resulted in Mr. Simpson being held liable for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and in 2008 a Los Angeles court upheld a renewal of the civil judgment, which has yet to be paid by Mr. Simpson, who is currently incarcerated as a result of different criminal verdicts.)
This division – which has, in later years, largely subsided, due in part to the public understanding of DNA evidence, which was in 1995 fairly new – rocked the US, drove friends and co-workers apart, and dominated the media for months.
Today’s crowds in Orlando, however, protesting the acquittal of Casey Anthony in her trial for the murder of her two-year-old daughter, are not black. They’re not white. They’re not Asian or Hispanic or female or male. They’re not parents, they’re not childless.
They are everyone.
That has, in this confusing time, been the one factor that I think we can be proud of. In the sixteen years since the Simpson criminal trial, and despite continuing problems with racial divides, the fact that we can find common ground outside a courtroom, at work and school, even on city streets – as people watched the Anthony verdict standing outside electronics shops – says something very good about America’s growth as a nation. The fact that most people, regardless of their race or age, deplored the Anthony defense team’s rollicking, celebratory party – that also is something to celebrate. That a pornography company rescinded its employment offer to Casey Anthony out of worry about public disdain is almost – almost! – to be celebrated.
If nothing else, we can be proud of our growth and development in understanding that the color of our skin has nothing to do with what is in our hearts and minds.
Let’s not forget, though, that a little girl was killed. It wasn’t Caylee’s death that sparked our coming together – we came together because we were ready to do so, to protest and mourn a life lost.