For all the white folks and other folks stopping by, the title is a riff on the old chestnut among black folks — “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” The saying is probably in the same genre as “once you go black, you never go back.” I know y’all have got to have heard that one before.

The criminal trial of O.J. Simpson divided the nation in an unhealthy way and at the time, I felt like a stranger in two worlds. The pink and blue collar black folks at work and all around me had convinced themselves of O.J.”s innocence while the rest of American society was pretty confident the Juice was guilty.

So confident that the outrage and passionate defense of someone to whom the evidence pointed strongly seemed baffling to people outside the black community. As a white collar worker spending a lot of time with white people, I was often quietly asked in one way or another: “Why?”

I tried to explain that O.J. was a symbol of the aspirations of millions. He’d risen from a poor childhood in the projects to Make It and be accepted at all levels of society including among the wealthiest of whites. Handsome, athletic, popular, elegant, funny, smart, wealthy — he seemed the all-American dream man, no matter your race.

To see an icon crash to the ground was difficult and disillusioned many. This was compounded by the failure of the L.A.P.D. to truly reform after the Rodney King riots. It was too easy for many reasons for black people to sympathize with O.J.’s assertion that he’d been unfairly targeted and harassed by police because he was a black man married to a white woman.

I felt terrible because I knew Black America was in for a hell of an hangover after the trial was over. Sure enough, a year or so later the same barbershop/hair salon where I’d heard intense analysis of the meager evidence that O.J. was innocent, people were relieved — and chagrined — he’d been convicted in the civil trial. He’d turned his back on all those who supported him and had retreated back to a wealthy world of golf courses and cocktails and folks had a chance to see him for who he really is. The Juice’s black signifying ultimately went sour, hey.

So it’s with an inner groan I read about O.J’s latest criminal activities. It’s embarrassing for African-Americans though in large part, we gave up on him a long time ago. The O.J. Simpson Trial was a metaphor and a meta-discussion in American culture mis-directed and gone horribly awry. White folks in power didn’t get it at the time and couldn’t diffuse the tension by addressing the real issue behind the African-American emotion around the case.

That’s why Jena 6 is so important to black people. It’s yet another symbol, another metaphor on legal lynching, racial profiling and other forms of mis-treatment by law enforcement. I’m glad to see at least one candidate Hillary Clinton recognize the significance this case has for African-Americans.

“There is no excuse for the way the legal system treated those young people,” she said.

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