CNN O.J. Simpson Trial

Race gap widens in wake of Simpson trial

October 4, 1995
Web posted at: 11:55 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Candy Crowley

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The huge gap between black and white was as close as the color television during the Simpson trial. Why did whites and African-Americans react so differently to the Simpson verdict? The answer is as simple as it is painful.

Justice isn't always blind. We have seen it on the streets. "You know if you're a black kid, you get stopped on the street just for being black," says a white New Yorker. "They had a police check on Ninth Avenue. They were stopping the black teen-agers and making them get out of their cars. You know, they don't do that to white kids as readily."

"Black and whites have different realities in America," says a black man from Washington, D.C. "Blacks know what discrimination is, they know what racism is, we have experienced it personally. Whites do not. It's academic with them," he says.

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And justice isn't always equal. Lawyers know that, and they teach it. Jamin Raskin, associate dean of Washington College, says it's a special part of instruction. "It is being blind to history not to recognize that the criminal justice system has been trained on the African-American community to try to control it, contain it, to break its spirit," he says.


When blacks tuned into the Simpson trial, they watched through a screen of skepticism. Ronald Walters, chairman of the Political Science Department at Howard University, says that blacks have had a particular relationship with the criminal justice system that has made them suspicious and alienated from it. Walters says that they could "therefore come to the conclusion, very easily, that Mark Fuhrman tainted the results of the evidence."

When whites tuned in to the trial, they were prone to see it in a different light. A white New Yorker says, "I tend to trust the police as somebody who upholds law and order, but, you know, I'm white."


After years at his listening post as a public radio talk show host, Derrick McGinty hears nothing in the wake of O.J. that he hasn't heard before. "It's not just about this O.J. case. It's about the fact that America is divided, that people have real different perceptions, and this just brought it to the surface," McGinty says.

The bright spot in this dim black and white picture may be that all the talk could lead to understanding. That assumes, however that people will stop talking long enough to listen.

"I don't believe that African-Americans are genuinely listening to those whites who say, 'How can you ignore all the overwhelming evidence?'" says Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor for the Atlanta Constitution. "And I don't believe white Americans are genuinely listening to those African-Americans who say, 'How can you discount not only the history African-Americans have had with the criminal justice system, but the fact that a white police officer perjured himself in this case?'" (748K AIFF sound or 748K WAV sound)


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