Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, and author of “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,” reveals what it was like to talk to OJ Simpson after bashing him on the “Today” show.
Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman in 1995, but was found liable for their wrongful deaths in a 1997 civil suit. Following is a transcript of the video.
One of the most interesting things that happened to me, of course, is that I got a call from OJ Simpson after I appeared on the “Today” show with Geraldo. I said look, there was nothing black on OJ but the bottom of the shoes. I said when he took that long slow ride down the LA freeway in AC Cowling’s Bronco, it wasn’t the first time he took a white vehicle to escape a black reality.
Well, later that night at home, the phone rang, my wife answered it, and then the voice on the other end of the phone said “do I call you Reverend, or Doctor or Professor Dyson?” It was OJ Simpson. And needless to say I was scared. And I responded, “You can call me Mike, you don’t have to call me Dr. Dyson” because OJ had me shook. He had me scared and he wanted to engage me talk to me.
I was certainly afraid of Mr. Simpson when I saw his lawyer Johnnie Cochran later I said “why did you give that brother my number?” I know he kills white people. Does he kill black people? That was remarkable to me because OJ was highly intelligent, highly articulate, knowing the ins-and-outs of his defence and yet to my mind absorbed in such a fashion that he didn’t understand some of the larger implications, racially speaking, of what his trial represented.
One of the things the OJ Simpson case did in America was create a race quake. It upended all the meanings we thought had been settled about race in America. Black people have been trying to communicate to white America that there was a problem with racial Justice in America.
We’ve been saying for decades, even for a century or more, that the criminal justice system was wrong was criminally negligent of black people, that the police departments of America had often been an occupying force in black America, that the law enforcement had a brutalizing impulse when it came to black and brown people in America. But we couldn’t be heard.
And so, with the OJ Simpson verdict, it was finally time for black America to be heard. Many white people said there was a mountain of evidence. Many black people saw that there was a police force that was often out to do dirty deeds to black people, they might have even framed OJ Simpson.
The verdict in the OJ Simpson case was a reflection of the fraught racial differences and racial tensions in America and as a result, have to be interpreted that way.