O.J. Simpson and friend are preparing for the long ride. The papers have reported 33 years, but he has a chance for parole in 9, according to CNN. I’m hoping that will be enough time for him, and others like him, to realize what has just happened here. The racial landscape of America has not changed so much from his first time around, 13 years ago. The only contrast may be that the black community is too busy with its own problems to be distracted by the antics of him and his millionaire buddies. These are the same millionaire buddies who are still playing golf and focusing their attention on their investments and taxes with no lifeboat for the Juice. In these days and times, it’s every man for himself.
As far as sports figures go, Sports Illustrated’s list of infamous athletes that have “went to jail” has black athletes overwhelmingly represented. They could barely find anyone to put on their list that was white. Is it that whites don’t commit the same crimes or are we confused about our “place” in the legal system? No matter how much notoriety comes with O.J.’s name, he’s no anomaly in the prison system. There are many African American athletes that are suffering from the ignorance of their stardom. They tend to believe that they can get away with the same things that their white counterparts are able to pull off. But, this is not just sports, this is consistent with the entertainment industry, as well as politics.
Politics is the major player right now in the penal system. For example, let’s weigh New York’s former governor, Eliot Spitzer, against Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit’s former mayor. The latest reports is that Spitzer, after being linked to a major prostitution ring for regular “treatment,” simply resigned and was able to float off into obscurity because the U.S. Attorney General couldn’t link him to spending the government’s funds on his escapades. Just last month, the New York Times reported: “Spitzer would not face criminal charges for his involvement in the sex ring citing they found no evidence of misuse of public funds and therefore pressing charges would not serve the public interest.” The investigation lasted all but a few months because he was only Governor from January 2007 until March 17, 2008 when he resigned.
Now let’s fast forward to Kwame Kilpatrick who was all but burned at the stake for seemingly the same offenses. He just happened to lie about his affair under oath and it started a major storm brewing over the city. The difference in the affairs was also the fact that he didn’t have to pay for the sex because he was getting it from his top aide. Reminiscent of Kwame’s sentencing from the circuit court judge, O.J.’s judge referred to him as “arrogant and ignorant,” but in Kwame’s case he was “arrogant and defiant.” And then down came the sentence of “restitution to the city of Detroit in the amount of one million dollars, lose his pension, serve four months in the Wayne County jail, serve five years probation, revocation of his law license; and is prohibited from running for public office for five years,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Can somebody point this brother to the welfare line, please?
This reminds me of that racist joke about what a black person is referred to no matter how high in educational or public stature they may become. But, that joke equates to more than the dehumanization of another with a silly racial slur, but more about the fact that there is no difference in us when the jails are being built…”us” meaning black folks. But, the larger travesty here is that we have these examples of uneven justice before us, yet there has been no major strides in closing the gap. It even appears that while Al Sharpton and others have brought racial profiling to the forefront as a reality, it still has done little more than become a social euphemism and, essentially, joke labelled DWB. Apparently, there is no weight given to our struggles, only weight to our punishments.