Can racial solidarity aid pain and suffering?
For example, supermodel Beverly Johnson said her reluctance to come forward against Bill Cosby was tied to her allegiance to African Americans, but I’ll get back to Cosby.
Days before the 2016 TV series “The People v. O.J. Simpson” aired, actor Courtney B. Vance (Johnnie Cochran) recalled his reaction to the 1995 Simpson verdict in an interview. Vance and actor Tony Goldwyn took a break from filming to watch the news. When it was announced Simpson was not guilty of murder, Vance said he screamed “Yes!” while Goldwyn screamed “No!” The two men, who were friendly, were astonished by the other’s reaction and wondered “what the great divide was about.”
Vance justified his glee. “I wasn’t cheering for O.J. It wasn’t about O.J. at all (that also implied, it wasn’t about the murder victims or the pain and suffering of their families.) We grew up with Black History (he mentioned Emmett Till.) There was no justice, there was no recourse for African Americans for centuries. And that’s what African Americans were cheering about.”
When the interviewer asked Vance about Simpson’s guilt or innocence Vance offered no opinion. If Vance believed Simpson was innocent, there’s no need to justify his reaction with a historical argument. But the historical rage was more recent than Emmett Till. A few years before the Simpson verdict, four White police officers were acquitted for beating Black motorist Rodney King. This sparked the 1992 L.A. Riots. The consensus in Black America was that four White police officers beat the system (like always), and the lingering rage at that specific injustice transferred into jubilation for a Black man (O.J. Simpson) found not guilty for the murder of two White people. The Simpson verdict was viewed as a “Black victory” over a historically unjust system without any regard for those still mourning the deceased.
Now, in between the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson verdicts was the trial of Damian Williams and Henry Watson. Williams and Watson were two of the four Black men charged with beating White truck driver Reginald Denny during the L.A. Riots.
The Denny beating was captured on film like the Rodney King beating, and just like the King recording revealed blatant police brutality, the Denny footage revealed clear attempts to murder. There was no racial solidarity behind the violence inflicted on Denny but it slowly built up behind the legal defense of Williams and Watson. The lawyers argued Williams and Watson were victims of poverty and racism, and Williams and Watson were being used as scapegoats for the L.A. Riots. The “poverty” defense led to light sentences for the defendants. Of course, Williams’ and Watson’s families cheered in the courtroom, Whites questioned if justice was served, and this leniency for stomping and bricking a White man nearly to death was viewed as a “Black victory.”
Williams was released from prison early for good behavior after four years of a 10-year sentence, and in 2003 he was sentenced to life in prison for a murder he committed in 2000. (I wonder if the family of this murder victim was devastated by the irony that “poverty” excused Williams from attempted murder and good behavior led to the actual deed.)
Recently, Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from drugging and molesting a woman, and his publicist tried to round up racial solidarity against an unjust system regardless of the pain and suffering of Cosby’s accusers.
The publicist said Cosby’s trial became a “public lynching.” When asked if all 60 women who accused Cosby of sexual assault were lying the publicist replied, “Since when are all people honest? Since when are all women honest? We can take a look at Emmett Till, for example. Not all people are honest.”
This type of intellectual dishonesty is the price we pay for not getting along.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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