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The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend, or Why OJ Won't Have Black Support

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Ah, that wonderful saying that describes the geopolitical terrain of the Middle East as well as, IMHO, support from the black community for O.J. Simpson. Looks like O.J. is back at it again, going to trial again, without benefit of a Johnnie Cochran, or a Willie Gary, John Burris (at least Barry Bonds had the good sense to hire Burris), or Johnny Griffin for that matter. And this time, I doubt that black folks will utter a peep about "squeezing The Juice" because, unlike last time, there is no common enemy (read: LAPD).

Mind you, I grew up with a terrible crush on O.J. Simpson. I adored his swagger, his undeniable excellence, you name it. I even adored his first wife Marguerite because I thought, in my warped teenage logic, that if a black woman like Marguerite Simpson could get a man like O.J., she had to be worthy of emulation.

Then I grew up. And, after law school, the "Trial of the Century" happened.

If anyone of the prosecution's team members had spent any significant time in a black barber shop or beauty shop, they would have known what they were up against. IMHO, for most black folks, the issue wasn't O.J. -- by that time, he had rendered himself irrelevant to most of us -- it was about the LAPD and its long, tired history of abuse in the black community. Even more, for black Angelinos and black lawyers, it was about having our knight in shining armor, Johnnie Cochran, sticking it to the LAPD, especially after Mark Fuhrman substantiated what many black Angelinos had experienced or suspected but could not prove: That the LAPD was downright racist. I knew more than a few black men who admitted to me (but would not admit to anyone white) that they thought O.J. was guilty as sin, but that this trial wasn't about O.J. anyway -- it was about The System. That if The System could get away with railroading O.J., who had money and the best lawyers it could buy at his disposal, then your average brother on an L.A. street was more doomed than we knew.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Many black attorneys cheered Cochran, not O.J. (heck, for criminal defense attorneys, guilt or innocence is not the issue; if it were, there'd be far fewer of them. It's about keeping the system straight), because his reputation had preceded him. Long before he represented Michael Jackson or O.J. Simpson, Cochran was known for his successes in going up against the LAPD at trial, his intense preparation, the respect he showed for everyone in the courtroom regardless of status, and the many cases he took pro bono on behalf of black folks. That part of his life seemed to get lost in the klieg lights that were part and parcel of the "Trial of the Century." In fact, the work of which he was most proud involved neither Michael Jackson nor O.J. Simpson: It was his representation of Geronimo Pratt. But Cochran had long established his bona fides with the black community and his willingness to stand up to injustice long before troubled black celebrities came calling.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

So, in 1995, when I was standing in the lobby of a San Francisco Fortune 500 company while the reading of the verdict played on a security guard's black and white TV, I saw what many black folks saw: That justice had been served -- not in the acquittal of O.J., because O.J. was only a symbol -- but in the implicit conviction of the LAPD at the hands of one of the most skilled trial attorneys, black, white or whatever, in the nation, who had been fighting many good fights for blacks all along. Even when one of the black female jurors stated that "this case wasn't about domestic violence," in referring to O.J.'s history of domestic violence, I disagreed (since prior bad acts are admissible to prove guilt) but thought, hey, if the prosecution didn't connect the dots for the jury, that's not the defense's problem. For many black Angelinos, I would imagine that verdict was the equivalent of dedicating Johnnie Guitar Watson's "It's A Real Mutha For Ya" over the radio to the LAPD. Or rather, NWA's "F*&^ the Police."

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

This time around, there is no common enemy such as the LAPD, no knight in shining armor such as Johnnie Cochran, and no more love for O.J. by most black folks than there was at his first trial. At this point, he symbolizes little more than what the old folks call "foolishness." He'll have to go it alone. I don't see him getting out of this one.

But, man, do I miss Johnnie Cochran.


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