America’s racial divide in 1994 became glaringly apparent on Oct. 3, 1995, when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, and reaction to the verdict was largely split along racial lines.
“I was cheering,” said director John Singleton. “I’m Black. I was cheering. What am I gonna say? I can’t lie.”
Singleton directs a pivotal episode of American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson, FX’s 10-part miniseries based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book about the legal dogfight behind the high-profile trial. The filmmaker’s episode, titled “The Race Card,” shows how Simpson’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran, played by Courtney B. Vance, used it to his advantage.
“I didn’t want to shoot it like a traditional legal drama,” he told EURweb at the Television Critics Association Press Tour over the weekend.
“I wanted to shoot it a different way – make the defense and the prosecution like opposing forces.”
The People V. O.J. Simpson makes a point to reference the Rodney King verdict and how it laid the groundwork for African-American distrust and animosity toward police and the legal system – so much so that Simpson’s guilt or innocence became irrelevant. His victory was seen as vindication following centuries of racial injustice.
Vance lists some of the cases below in explaining why he, too, “cheered” O.J.’s acquittal.
Episode one of American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson premieres Feb. 2 on FX.