The Simpson Case: To 'Galvanize' an Issue, Get a Black Man Involved

January 29, 1995|By ISHMAEL REED

If recent high-profile cases are a trend, it seems that only when black individuals, or a group of blacks, become involved in an ugly event that national consciousness is galvanized about an issue, particularly offenses and crimes against women. A front-page New York Times article used the word "galvanized" when discussing the effect of the Simpson case upon awareness of domestic violence.

The allegations brought against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill led to a national debate about sexual harassment.

American music literature contains thousands of sexist lyrics, but it took the rappers to ignite a controversy about such lyrics that has reached the halls of Congress.

Two black students' being offended by a white student's calling them "water buffaloes" led to a national discussion about political correctness.

Not only have blacks become the actors for national discussions about drugs and sex, they have served as anti-role models for other discussions.

So it was inevitable that the problems of Nicole and O. J. Simpson would generate a national discussion of domestic violence, promoted by media that, in their competition for ratings, often behave like a rogue bull elephant on PCP.

It's not that domestic violence is an unimportant issue, but the media delude themselves and their audiences when they create the impression that domestic violence is just a black problem -- which is what L.A.'s district attorney suggested when he said that spousal abuse was happening in "urban" areas, when evidence indicates that it's a rural and suburban problem, too.

Domestic violence isn't just a male problem, either. This is a myth promoted by feminist ideologues, some of whom seem to become aroused only when a black male has problems with women.

Recently, prominent black feminists like bell hooks have suggested that white feminists focus their feminist ire upon black men. While Anita Hill has become a feminist icon, I have BTC seen no bumper stickers that read, "I believe Paula," in support of Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin, who brought charges against male Navy officers after the assault on women at the Tailhook convention. Lieutenant Coughlin resigned from the Navy after experiencing reprisals for coming forth with the charges.

Comments by feminist lawyer Gloria Allred convicted Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Clarence Thomas in trials by television. Before Ms. Allred became adviser to the Brown family, their comments about Mr. Simpson were positive. In an early statement regarding the case, Denise Brown, before she had been prepped by Allred, implied that she didn't consider Mr. Simpson to be a batterer and said that her sister, Nicole, had a temper.

Ms. Allred is perhaps responsible for turning the case into a referendum about feminist theory so ditzy that if a man raises his voice while speaking to a woman, or gives her gifts, or if a husband disagrees with his wife about the family budget, he could be hauled before a judge by Ms. Allred and the Sister Police.

The fact that Ms. Allred and Leslie Abramson, who represented the Menendez brothers, called for the death penalty in the

Simpson case would seem to disqualify them as network consultants. The fact that it hasn't is typical of the networks' anti-Simpson coverage.

Ms. Allred and Ms. Abramson are among the many white feminists who've cast O. J. Simpson as a bad character and suggested that he ought to be convicted as a result of his rocky marriage, whether he committed the murders or not.

Only a few black women have been invited to participate in this parade of pop psychologists and quacks from other "sciences," all of whom have already convicted O. J. Simpson of murder.

As a black man, I'm also wondering how the scores of white males who have appeared on television to condemn Mr. Simpson, and all of a sudden become feminists, treat the women in their lives.

Geraldo Rivera is one of the many commentators to make sordid innuendo about Mr. Simpson's relationship to white women. Those who believe that Mr. Rivera, another Brown family confidant and media figure who seems convinced of Mr. Simpson's guilt, is a feminist should read his autobiography, in which he documents his abuse of his second wife, Edie Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut's daughter.

(Mr. Rivera also talks about his homoerotic fascination with Rudolf Nureyev and Mick Jagger. Is his thrashing of Simpson merely a quest for ratings or does he have a crush on the man?)

Whether O. J. Simpson is guilty or not, his case has raised one issue that deserves further discussion, but probably won't receive publicity because it would challenge a dangerous myth that many media people and politicians feel comfortable with: that all of America's social problems emanate from the behavior of blacks.

Because this theory has been embraced by some of the most powerful opinion-makers in the country, we'll have to wait until a black celebrity murders her child to spark a discussion of domestic violence by women, or for a black teen-age celebrity to commit suicide before we become "galvanized" about the issue of teen-age suicide.

Though the white media experts and some of their black surrogates swear up and down that singling out Judge Thomas, Tyson and Mr. Simpson has nothing to do with race -- it's just a coincidence that all three are black -- the pattern is certainly racist and it's just another bill that blacks have to pay in a society that says it's color-blind.

Ishmael Reed, the author of more than 20 books, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and twice nominated for the National Book Award. He lives in Oakland, Calif.

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