O.J. Verdict Splits L.A. On Race Lines Whites Think Simpson Guilty, Blacks Feel System Is Biased
The jury’s verdict is in, but in a city once again divided along racial lines by a criminal court trial and the deliberations may only be just beginning.
Most whites believed O.J. Simpson was guilty. Most African-Americans thought him innocent. And neither could make sense of the other’s point of view.
“People literally do not understand why people of another race are saying what they’re saying. It’s astonishing,” said political science Professor Raphael Sonenshein. “It’s a delicate time.”
To most whites, the central question in the trial was whether Simpson was a murderer responsible for the deaths of his wife and her friend.
To most African-Americans, the issue was whether the system that brought Simpson to trial was tainted by racial bias.
The racial divisions over the case grew deeper as the trial progressed.
A poll released a month after the killings found 63 percent of whites said Simpson was guilty; 65 percent of African-Americans thought he was innocent.
An ABC News poll released last week found that 77 percent of whites believed him guilty, while 72 percent of African-Americans said he was innocent. Reaction to Tuesday’s verdict broke sharply along racial lines.
“The verdict struck a blow against racism,” said Paulette Edwards, 37, an African-American woman from Los Angeles. “In this country, whether it be the north, south, east or west, many people feel if you are a black man, there is no justice.”
David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a conservative think tank, issued a statement condemning the verdicts.
“This disgrace may have set back race relations in this country 30 years,” Horowitz, who is white, said in the statement.
Larry Bumgardner, who teaches law and political science at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., said it’s too soon to say what impact the case will have on race relations in Los Angeles.