NEW FORMS OF GENOCIDE
Police brutality - including violent physical attacks, intimidation, sexual abuse, and false arrests - against African Americans had been nothing new by the early 1990s. Blacks had a long history of experiencing police brutality, from the early days of bounty hunters for runaway slaves, through the 1920s birth of FBI harassment, to police support for the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s and 1940s, police attacks during civil rights integrations in the 1950s and 1960s, to the drug raids of the 1970s and 1980s. It was normal for young Black males in the late 1980s and the early 1990s to experience constant harassment from police officers (predominantly White officers) in urban cities. This put a huge strain on the Black community. Officers would openly and boastfully harass African Americans while they ate in public places, sat or were hanging out at public recreational facilities (parks, shopping malls), were in transport (in a car, on bike, or as they walked), and more. African American males aged 15-35 who walked in groups were immediately targeted, typecast as gang members or drug dealers, and subject to demeaning searches, beaten, and arrested for inexistent crimes.
Black women mostly dealt with sexual forms of harassment from police officers. These officers, mostly White, would usually isolate a single Black female, make sexual advances towards her, and then sexually abuse her - including fondling her breasts, groping her body, kissing her, fingering her, and sometimes raping her. Even more atrocious was that these acts were usually in the accompany of a fellow police officer. Because most women (of any race) were unsuccessful in prosecuting the police officers who abused them, along with the fear for worse harassment later, many would never report the crimes to the police departments themselves, which viciously continued the cycle. In addition to sexual abuse, African American females were beaten right alongside of males, undergoing most of the same harassment as they, unprovoked. San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York Police Departments were the most infamous during the early 1990s in association with police brutality.
California cities had increasing issues with gang and drug violence, which prompted a response from police officers to start racial profiling those they believed "fit the description" of criminals, which usually first consisted of them being Black and a young adult. Some broad descriptions would be given - for ex: 5"9 African American, medium brown skinned, wearing Black Nike shoes - the problem was that this would classify most of the African American men they came across, which ensued countless unjust searches, ID checks, and false arrests. In New York, upon the hire of Mayor Rudy Guliani, police brutality would sore in urban communities after he hired a new police force, bringing swift incarceration of African American males for petty crimes - they would almost all carry unfair lengthy prison sentences. In Guliani's attempt to rid New York of its drug problems, he would authorize new forms of violence and abuse from his officers to be inflicted on the Blacks in his urban cities.
Rodney King, a 25 year old African American male, who had been partying in Los Angeles, California, in 1991 would put a spotlight on the horrible atrocities committed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), that would stigmatize them permanently. King, with two passengers, had been partying at a friends house, and drinking. Husband-and-wife officers Tim and Melanie Singer, noticed King's car speeding on the freeway and when when they attempted to pursue him, he accelerated in speed to flee them, knowing that he would face a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, which would violate his parole and send him to jail. When the car was cornered in a residential neighborhood, all 3 of the passengers would throw their hands in the air, to indicate their surrender and cooperation. The first 5 LAPD officers to arrive at the scene were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.
All 3 passengers in King's vehicle were told to exit the car and lay face down on the ground. The other two passengers were beaten while on the ground, while King, who was clearly intoxicated at the time (his alcohol level was .19, twice the legal limit in California) was laughing with police. Singer accused King of attempting to draw a weapon from his buttocks - which it was later proven he did not have - in which prompted LAPD Sergeant Stacy Koon to instruct Singer to step aside, and that the LAPD was taking "tactical command". Officer Koon then instructed 4 officers to "swarm" King, subdue, and handcuff him. King was tasered once, beaten, and then tasered again to the ground. Alarmed by what was happening, George Holliday, who was in his apartment nearby, would begin recording video on his camera following King's second taser. It would show faint images of King trying to flee after the second taser struck him, with taser wires protruding from his chest. King would argue that the officers were trying to kill him, since he had been beaten senseless and tasered multiple times, and that he was trying to flee for his life. The officers accused King of being on PCP during the incident, citing his strength as a justification for their excessive force - toxology tests would prove negative for PCP in King's system. King was then shown on video being beaten by the officers, which Koon referred to them as "power strokes", ordering the officers to "hit his joints, hit the wrists, hit his elbows, hit his knees, hit his ankles" to keep him from rising to the ground. After another "swarm", this time with 8 officers, King's wrists and legs were then handcuffed, and he was drug atop his abdomen to the side of the road, where he awaited for emergency paramedics to arrive. George Holliday got it all on video.
So many Black males had been complaining of this very type of harassment that King had endured, but saw no justice because there was never any tangible proof against the White police officers who abused them. But now, Holliday would have video proof. He contacted the police about his video tape two days after the incident, but they ignored him. He then went to KTLA television, in which they aired the video in it's entirety - with the exception of the first ten seconds which were blurry - and the footage became an instant media sensation.
Charges against King for driving while intoxicated and evading arrest were never pursued. King suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle, and several lacerations and bruises from the officers. King would file a negligence claim, in which alleged he suffered "11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney damage, and emotional and physical trauma". King was successful in suing the City of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million as well as $1.7 million in attorney's fees. But money wasn't enough, King and Blacks who were enduring the same abuses, wanted change to the department policies, and removal of racist officers. With public outrage as the driving source in pursuing arrest of the LAPD officers involved in his beating, the Los Angeles District Attorney charged officers Koon, Powell, Briseno, and Wind with the use of excessive force, while Koon was charged with "willfully permitting and failing to take action to stop the unlawful assault". Judge Bernard Kamins was removed by the California Court of Appeals to preside over the case after he told the prosecutors "you can trust me", and the Court granted a change of venue to Simi Valley - a wealthy, predominately White suburban neighborhood - citing potential contamination and bias due to the media coverage. The jury, consisting of 10 White jurors, 1 Latino, and 1 Asian, acquitted all of the officers.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said, "The jury's verdict will not blind us to what we saw on that videotape. The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the LAPD." Even then-President George H. W. Bush said, "Viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I and so was Barbara and so were my kids.". Black America was outraged. The violence in African American communities and excessive police violence had gone on for too long and without consequence. A riot rapidly ensued in Los Angeles as a result.
The acquittals of the Los Angeles Police officers came at 3:15 pm local time. By 3:45pm, a crowd of more than 300 people had appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse protesting the verdicts passed down a half hour earlier. Being that Latinos were also heavily targeted by the police during this time, experiencing similar harassment since many lived in the same neighborhoods as Blacks, were equally outraged at the injustice, since it also meant the continuance of such harassment for them. Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, who were shopping in stores, heard the verdict while inside, and decided not to pay for the items they were shopping for, and instead started walking out one-by-one with items still in hand. They would argue that Whites could commit worse crimes without consequence, so who cares if they were looting items like diapers, milk, and toilet paper that they needed and could barely afford from stores. The minority population - mostly Blacks and Latinos - of Los Angeles were in a riot within an hour. The looting spread, and suddenly dozens of stores were destroyed from the chaos of people coming in ambush, taking items and fleeing.
Most of the stores in these neighborhoods were owned by Korean immigrants. A Korean-language radio station called for volunteers to guard against the looters. Many Korean immigrants from the area would rush to Koreatown, armed with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and other weapons to protect their stores and resist looters. Koreans and Blacks in the area were already under high tension with each other. Koreans in the area would stereotype Blacks, assuming they would not pay for or couldn't afford items in their stores, and that they would opt to steal instead. They would follow Blacks around their stores, rushing them through their purchases, demanding cash as the only form of payment, and a rush for them to exit. Blacks were outraged that Koreans were putting stores in their neighborhoods, to reap the financial gain off of their dollars spent, but had no respect for Blacks and constantly mistreated them.
A year prior, a storekeeper Soon Ja Du was working in her family-owned liquor store, and argued with a 15 year old African American student Latasha Harlins over whether or not she had been trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. The argument turned physical, and after Latasha hit Du, Du shot Latasha in the back, killing her. The entire event was caught on the store's security camera. When investigators arrived, Latasha was still clutching onto the $2 in her hand that she intended to use to pay for the orange juice - the video can show investigators removing the money from her hand, while awaiting the coroner's arrival. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to pay a $500 fine. She would not be sentenced any prison time. This incident, combined with the constant prejudices Blacks faced going into Korean stores in Black neighborhoods, along with the Rodney King verdict, inspired Blacks to loot and destroy Korean stores.
The riots, beginning the day of the King verdict, peaked in intensity over the next two days. Approximately 3,600 fires were set, destroying 1,100 buildings; fire calls came in once every minute at some points. Entertainment and sports events were postponed or canceled, including the LA Lakers playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers - which was scheduled the night the riots began, and had to be moved to Las Vegas. San Francisco went into a city-wide curfew because of the unrest in the communities there, resulting in the canceling the SF Giants home game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The horse racing venues Hollywood Park Racetrack and Los Alamitos Race Course were also shut down. L.A. Fiesta Broadway, a major event in the Latino community, was not held in the first weekend in May as scheduled. In music, Van Halen canceled two concert shows in Inglewood (a neighborhood within Los Angeles), and Michael Bolton cancelled his scheduled performance at the Hollywood Bowl. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) also canceled their events in Long Beach and Fresno, CA. The Southern California Rapid Transit District (now Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) suspended all bus service throughout the Los Angeles area, and closed down several major freeways.
On the fourth day of the riots, President George H.W. Bush ordered 3,500 federal military personnel to arrive in Los Angeles to reinforce the California Army National Guard soldiers who were already in the city — 2,000 soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord, and 1,500 Marines of the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton. Deployed in 24 hours, federal military personnel and California Army National Guardsmen directly supported local police in restoring order - they had a major effect of containing, and then stopping the violence. A dusk-till-dawn curfew was put in place for Los Angeles residents, which made it a crime to be outside of their homes after roughly 7p to 6a the following morning. When most of the violence was under control, 30,000 people attended a peace rally the next day. On that same day, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would begin a federal investigation of the Rodney King beating.
A total of 53 people died during the riots, including 8 who were killed by police officers and two who were killed by Korean immigrants who were acting as "guards" at stores. As many as 2,000 people were reportedly injured. Less than half of all the riot arrests and a third of those killed during the violence were Hispanic. Estimates of the material losses vary between about $800 million and $1 billion.
MORE MEDIA DESTRUCTION
In 1994, Orenthal James (OJ) Simpson was enjoying retirement from NFL, where he had broken a series of records and was regarded a living-legend, was filming a television pilot for NBC, dating 27 year-old actress Paula Barbieri, and raising 2 young children (ages 9 and 6) jointly with his ex wife, Nicole Brown. Simpson and Brown had a tamultuous relationship from the start, after meeting her when she was a young waitress (she was 18, he 30), and beginning a relationship with her while he was still married to his first wife, Marguerite - also the mother of his 2 children Jason and Arnelle Simpson. When he left his wife for Brown, and then married her in 1985, their whirlwind romance would be interrupted through a series of domestic issues, including violence, jealousy, and infidelity. There would be a 911 call and reports made by Nicole Brown Simpson in 1989 where she claimed her husband OJ had been physically abusive to her, and she was afraid for her life. They would divorce in 1992.
Nicole Brown was awarded $433,750 and $10,000 a month child support in a divorce settlement after their 7 years of marriage, moved into a rented house five minutes from OJ Simpson's mansion, then bought a condominium near his home. Brown, single for the first time since she was a teenager, would act "freely", having several flings, dating casually, and regained closeness with her friends. But about 18 months after Brown and Simpson parted, she would announce that she wanted her husband back to her friends. After Simpson initially refused an attempt to reconcile, he would change his mind, and they would continue their tumultuous on-again off-again relationship until Brown's death two years later.
On June 12, 1994, Simpson and Brown would be spending their day apart, after a recent argument prompted them to call off their reunite, again. She and Simpson would both spend the day running errands; Brown would be toy shopping, and prepping for daughter Sydney's recital later that evening; Simpson would be golfing and playing cards with TV producer Craig Baumgarten, and making phone calls to female acquaintances Paula Barbieri (his girlfriend), Traci Adell, and Jasmine Guy. He would then set up a date with Playboy Playmate Gretchen Stockadale over the phone. When at Sydney's recital, Simpson and Brown barely spoke, but afterwards, were seen laughing and talking together. But she would not invite Simpson to join her and the family for dinner following the recital, which angered him - he would complain about it later that evening. Nicole and her family (mother, sister, and kids) were to dine at Jackson's Restaurant where Jason Simpson - OJ Simpson's 24 year-old son from his first marriage - was working as a chef. Brown changed plans at the last minute, without alerting Jason or OJ, and her family would dine at Mezzaluna Restaurant instead, where Nicole's friend, 25 year-old Ronald Goldman had been a server. While Brown and party were there, Simpson was packing for a flight he was soon to depart for, and eating at McDonalds with his house-guest Kato Kaelin. When Brown returned home from the restaurant, her mother called to let her know that she left her eyeglasses at the restaurant - Nicole said she would retrieve them. She then called the restaurant and had a brief phone exchange with Goldman, who said he would drop the glasses off at her home personally when he got off work at 9:30p. Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman would be killed outside of Nicole's house minutes later.
Brown had put her 2 kids to bed, had candles lit, and low lighting in the house as she awaited for Ronald Goldman to arrive. Brown was wearing a short black nightgown, black panties underneath, with her hair down and flowing, and no shoes on when she answered her door - she was attacked in surprise. The details and exact circumstances around what happened during the attack are still fully unknown, since the attacker has never been found and there were no eye witnesses to the crime. However, the official autopsy report was able to give some concrete details that filled in a few blanks. Early in the attack, the assailant delivered a critical blow to the right side of her head, nearly an inch in size, leaving a huge reddish-brown bruise. She was knocked unconscious against the handrails on the front steps of her condo with a smooth and hard object, presumptually a knife handle or metal post. Shortly after the head blow, the assailant stabbed Brown three times in the left side of her neck and nicked her once - the bleeding from the wounds indicated that she was still alive during the knife attack. The stab wounds were determined to have been caused by a single-edged knife, approximately 6 inches long.
Goldman had arrived at Brown's condominium to return her mother's glasses, and was also attacked by the assailant. How Goldman interacted or was noticed by the assailant is also not fully known, for the same reasons as Browns', but there are a few details that give a vivid description of the events that occurred. Goldman had stopped by his home to change out of his work attire before heading to Brown's estate, throwing on a pair of jeans and a shirt. After arriving at Brown's home, he had a physical scuffle with the assailant. The attacker started by stabbing Goldman twice across his neck with parallel, non lethal, carefully placed cuts that appeared to be derived from behind Goldman. After a struggle, Goldman was eventually pinned in a gated area by the attacker, where he was left nearly helpless. He would be stabbed in the head behind the left ear - the patterns in Goldman's head showed he was likely trying to push his assailants knife from going deeper and only causing nicks. Goldman would have several bruises, open cuts, blisters, and scratches on his knuckles, hands and arms, showing that he fought for his life, in attempt to physically resist his attacker. The fatal wounds would come from deep penetrating knife lunges to Goldman's heart and to one of his lungs, causing a quick death. The attacker would afterwards return to Nicole, likely pinning her to the ground with a shoe atop her back (standing over her), pulled head back by her hair and then slashed her throat from left to right.The slice across her neck was vicious and clean. It sliced through both of Brown's caratid arteries - which provide blood to the brain - nearly cutting through one jugular vein, and left the second jugular vein dangling in tact. It would lead to death within minutes from suffocation and severe blood loss. She would lay dead in a pool of her own blood when she was found by neighbors 2 hours later.
Simpson had just returned home from eating at McDonalds with his guest, Kato Kaelin (who was living in the guest quarters in Simpson's mansion) before the murders would begin. He was supposed to dine at his son Jason's restaurant - Jackson Restaurant - but had a change of plans after assuming he would get a dinner invite from his ex wife Nicole but did not. OJ's son Jason, 24 years old, who had a love/hate history with Nicole Brown, had prepared for her and his siblings' arrival at his restaurant, sharing with colleagues that he was looking forward to seeing them, especially since he was unable to attend the recital because of his work obligations. Brown would not notify Jason, who was already at the restaurant, that their dinner plans had changed. Jason, who had been trained in hand-t0-hand combat and field knife training while attending the Army and Navy Academy, had a history of violent behavior, specifically rage. Rejection, abandonment, and being "forgotten" were all known triggers for him - likely spurring back to his childhood after his father left him and his sister at a young age for Nicole.
At the time of the murders, Jason was on probation for assault with a deadly weapon - he attacked his boss with a kitchen knife. Jason had also previously attacked his girlfriend with a knife, in attempt to kill her. He had been diagnosed with "intermittent rage disorder" (aka Jekyll and Hyde syndrome), and was given Depakote - a medication to treat bi polar mania - to control his seizers and rage. Just 6 months prior to the murders, Jason was struggling to cope with depression, and went to the emergency room claiming to hear voices of people who weren't there and felt he was "going to rage" because he ran out of Depakote. Instead of using the electric time clock to punch out his time card (which was fully operating) when leaving Jacksons Restaurant the night of the murders, he opted to handwrite it. He was unaccounted for after leaving the restaurant early, around 9:40p, and not heard from or seen for over a day. When OJ Simpson was informed of the murders, he rushed back to Los Angeles. The Browns and Goldmans were called by the LAPD on Simpson's phone, to inform them of the murders of their loved ones. Brown's mother Judith, immediately screamed "OJ did it! OJ murdered Nicole!" . The media found a new sensation to watch, analyze, love, hate, and break - their once All-American hero, OJ Simpson.
For the first time in United States history, the media (press, journalists, news, photographers) publicly followed an American man accused of a crime, daily, along with his family, friends, and the victim's families (Browns and Goldmans) leading up to, during, and after the trial. When Simpson was charged with murder, the cameras were eager to get his response, emotions, and ask questions. But Simpson was no where to be found, and declared a fugitive. He had actually heard the news about the accusation, and was with his friend, Robert Kardashian when he was told he needed to surrender to the Los Angeles Police Department. He soon fled with Al Cowlings, in Simpson's Ford Bronco, with a gun to his own head. Once the police spotted him, and Simpson refused to stop, a slow-speed chase ensued. The media and the public went wild. TV helicopters swooped in to follow the white Bronco as it slowly drove on the freeway and in residential streets. The chase was ranked 6th in the "most impactful" television moment, beating the death of Osama Bin Laden. The chase interrupted nearly every televised program taking place around the country, and coincidentally some legendary sporting events: golf superstar Arnold Palmer was playing his last round at the U.S. Open, the Knicks were playing against the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, Ken Griffey Jr tied Babe Ruth for the most home runs hit before June 30th, and the Stanley Cup was taking place between the New York Rangers against champions Vancouver Canucks of the NHL. ESPN would switch back and forth between the low speed chase, to various updates on the sporting events. Even when major American networks like NBC continued airing the NBA Finals Live, they had a small box in the corner where Tom Brokaw anchored coverage of the Simpson chase. After this moment, every single person involved in Simpson's life, and those closest to Brown and Goldman, would become overnight celebrities. A book about the murders was conceptualized within days of the murders being announced, and scheduled to publish just a few weeks later.
Americans wanted to know every detail about the case - the accused, the murdered, the lawyers on both sides, the judge who was presiding over the trial, the police officers, the forensic experts, the guest at Simpson's home, the exact time stamps of the crimes and the events that took place before and after, and more. It was the most talked about case, and after Judge Ito ruled that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom, granting live coverage, the public would get what they wanted. Dubbed the "Trial of the Century", the 24-hour live coverage would consume American families. An immediate split in innocent vs. guilty opinion was between Blacks and Whites: Blacks believed OJ was innocent, Whites believed he was guilty. The Los Angeles Times covered the OJ Simpson Trial on the front page of its newspaper every day for more than 300 days after the murders. ABC, CBS, and NBC - dubbed the "Big Three Networks" for being the most dominant television networks on US television - featured more time about the trial on their nightly news broadcast then any other news story, including the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Simpson had previously worked as a sports reporter for both ABC and NBC, and had many friends at the networks, but they would become his enemies as the attention on the case ensued. Comedians, and late-night televisions shows like The Tonight Show had Jay Leno did various skits on the Trial. A TV-Movie dramatization of the case was aired on the Fox Network, within a year of the murders. Time Magazine published a cover story, "An American Tragedy" with a mugshot image of Simpson on the cover. The image was darker than a typical magazine image, and the Time photo was darker than the original, as shown on a Newsweek cover released at the same time. Time itself then became the object of a media scandal, and it was found they had employed photo manipulation to darken the photo, to make Simpson appear more "menacing." The publication of the cover photo drew widespread criticism of racist editorializing, and yellow journalism, which news outlets have had a history of practicing. Time publicly apologized later. The Simpson verdict was the third most "universally impactful" television moment in the lsat 50 years, behind the September 11th 2001 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. The trial was covered in 2,237 news segments from 1994 through 1997.
To defend himself against the serious allegations since he was likely to face the death penalty if convicted, Simpson hired a set of successful, prestigious, high-profile lawyers - who the media dubbed the "Dream Team" - that included Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, Johnnie Cochran, Lee Bailey, and Alan Dershowitz. The prosecution that would argue Simpson was guilty consisted of Marcia Clark, State of California prosecutor, and Christopher Darden. Simpson's defense argued that Simpson was a victim of police fraud, as many African American males were, and that sloppy internal procedures contaminated the DNA evidence collected. They also argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted evidence at the crime scene intentionally to sabotage Simpson. The defense would originally claim that Brown was likely victim of false identity, and drug dealers were actually looking to kill Brown's friend Faye Resnick - who was a known cocaine user who had owed money to her dealers, and had been staying at Nicole's condo until just days before the murder. But the defense, while trying to find Brown and Goldman's killer simultaneously, would defend Simpson against the blood evidence that was pointing at him, the most critical element to the prosecution.
There was also a clear defense in Simpson's case against Ronald Goldman, which made it transparent that he was innocent - Simpson had no injuries, scratches, bruises, or any marks that indicated he was in a scuffle with Goldman. The autopsy revealed Goldman's knuckles were bloody and bruised (indicating he had been punching someone), he had skin under his nails, and clearly showed that Goldman fought for his life - he would have inflicted some sort of bruise or mark on his assailant - but Simpson had none. LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman would be the key figure in the blood evidence, and was the most critical witness for the prosecution - he would be unbeknowstingly be one for the defense, and a central figure in their victory.
The murder weapon was never found, and there were no witnesses to the murders. Being that the murders took place between 10:15p and 10:40p, the prosecution would argue that Simpson must have driven his white Bronco 5 minutes to Nicole's house, murdered Brown and Goldman in 20 minutes, and returned home. A witness in the area claimed to see a car similar to Simpson's Bronco speeding away at 10:35p. The first police officer on the crime scene, upon discovering Goldman and Browns lifeless bodies, also found a white envelope containing the eye glasses Goldman was returning to Brown, Goldman's beeper, a black leather grove, and a dark blue knit ski-cap on the ground near the bodies. The prosecutions primary arguments again Simpson was that his blood was found near the condo, but the most damning was that there were 3 single drops drops of his blood on the driveway near the gate to his mansion that was nearby. The DNA evidence was the most damaging to Simpson's credibility, as the prosecution had drops of Nicole's blood on a pair of Simpson's socks that were in his bedroom, traces of Brown and Goldmans blood in, on, and near OJ's Bronco, a "black person's hair" on Goldman's shirt, blood on the glove that was found on the ground that featured all 3 blood-types, and strands of "African American hair" in the knit cap found near the bodies.
Detective Fuhrman testified to driving over to Simpson's house on the night of the murders to question him, and after getting no response after buzzing the intercom of the empty house, he scaled one for he walls to see if he could find any suspicious evidence. He claimed to have found blood marks on the driveway of Simpson's home, and a black leather glove near Kato Kaelin's guest house; the glove would contain both murder victims and Simpsons'. When Fuhrman was asked continuously by F. Lee Bailey if he was racist or had used the word "nigger" to describe Black people in the last 10 years, he adamantly and confidently denied it. A few months later, the defense played recorded audio tapes of Furhman repeatedly using the word "nigger" - over 41 times - during an interview with screenwriter Laura McKinny, who was developing a film on police officers. It destroyed Furhman's testimony. His credibility was immediately questioned, being that he obviously lied on the stand, under oath. After the tapes were released, Furhman was asked back to the stand to answer questions about the DNA evidence he collected, and was directly asked if he had planted evidence at the crime scene. With the lawyer standing by his side, Furhman pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid self incrimination. His testimony would result in his indictment: one count of perjury.
Christopher Darden would ask Simpson to try on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime. The glove was soaked in blood - from both victims, and Simpsons'. Simpson infamously tried the glove on, and it did not fit. Johnny Cochran famously rebutted "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit". Many argue that it was this piece of the trial that would leave the most lasting impression, and for the defense, would ultimately be the best piece of evidence to dismiss charges against their client. Outside of evidence, or the 150 witnesses that gave testimony during the trial, the trial surrounding Brown and Goldman's murders would be centered around something that wasn't originally expected: race. The Los Angeles Police Department, who had a history of violence against Blacks, had a plethora of accusations made against them, but never stuck - like the Rodney King incident just 3 years prior. With Furhman now an outted racist, the shift in focus came from the DNA evidence found, to the racist LAPD who is always trying to "incarcerate innocent Black males". Being that most African American leaders and "heroes" usually end up being discredited through White and Jewish historians and publications later in their lives (typically while they are in retirement) or after they've deceased, Blacks refused to let that happened to their living-legend OJ Simpson. Usually Blacks who faced murder allegations in Los Angeles were sentenced by all White, or a White-dominate jury, and normally faced maximum penalties. Simpson's defense pushed for a shift in the unfair treatment of Blacks on trial, and reversed the typical jury, to a nearly all Black-dominate one. The jury would find Simpson not guilty of any of the charges against him.
Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman's murderers have yet to be found. The Goldmans and Browns still believe that Simpson is guilty of killing their family members. New details have surfaced as various detectives and investigators have tried to solve the mystery, with results leading to a new prime suspect: Jason Simpson. Jason, OJ Simpson's 24 year-old son at the time of the murders, had never been a suspect in 1994. Most commentators on the case now agree that he should have been. Jason Simpson's alibi placed him at Jackson's Restaurant, where he would claim that that he was cooking for 200 people, until he clocked out around 10:30p. Then he said he dropped off his girlfriend and watched TV from 11p - 3a. His alibi was never cross referenced - there was no further questioning on his activities at the restaurant, or whether or not his story checked out. When Jason's co-workers were finally questioned - years after the trial concluded his father's innocence - they would contradict his statements.
Management at Jackson's Restaurant confirmed that the restaurant only holds roughly 87 - 90 at full capacity, and the night of the murders, they were practically empty. As a result, Jason left around 9:30p. And although the time-clock machine was working that evening, Jason opted to handwrite his claiming he left at a later time (9:50p). Also, the navy-cap found at the crime scene had contained animal hair (light brown and blonde), and the hairs tested inside proved to be an African American males, but did not match OJ Simpsons DNA. OJ Simpson also did not own knit caps in his wardrobe, and was never seen photographed in them. His son Jason however, did, and was photographed multiple times in them, even having an identical one at home that matched the cap found at the crime scene. Following the days of the murders, Jason Simpson would complain of soreness - indicating he had been in a fight, which he often did. Jason's dog was light in color, and matched the color of the hairs found in the knit-cap at the crime scene. In addition, there was blood evidence that was tested that had "traces" of Simpson's blood at the scene, but wasn't a full match - a child would carry their parent's DNA, but not their full DNA. When OJ Simpson's not-guilty verdict was announced, and Simpson's family was photographed being overjoyed with tears, Jason Simpson would be the only one on OJ's side that appeared emotionless. Jason Simpson has remained out of the public eye since.
Mark Fuhrman, the LAPD officer whose entire testimony and claims were uncredited after he was proven to be a racist, went to have a successful career; he released a series of true crime books, and is currently a commentator on Fox News. The "Dream Team" attorneys all went on continuing successful careers - Robert Kardashian and Johnnie Cochran died in 2003, and 2005, respectively. Marcia Clark continued her career as a prosecutor, but while once shy in front of the cameras and attracting press, she would go on to be as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight; she also co-authored a book about the Simpson case, in a deal reportedly worth $4.2 million. Christopher Darden would leave his District Attorney role years after he lost the Simpson case, eventually starting his own practice Darden & Associates. Kato Kaelin went on to make dozens of reality-show appearances and game shows, and would have a stint in radio. OJ Simpson, a newly freed man, expected to return home the same hero he was before the murders, potentially reconcile with his girlfriend (who broke up with him the afternoon of the murders because he wouldn't allow her to attend Sydney's recital), and continue his flourishing acting career. Simpson prior to the murders had just finished filming the entire 2-hour pilot to an anticipated new series, Frogmen, a few months before the murders; the series was to be a 90s version of the A-Team, with Simpson as the star. He would be sadly mistaken.
Worth an estimated $11 million when the murders of Brown and Goldman occurred, OJ Simpson's earnings came to an immediate halt, that has remained to change. When the trial concluded, and Simpson was found not-guilty of the charges against him, he was approximately $850,000 in debt. To make matters worse, NBC decided not to air his pilot, or continue developing his new series. The Goldman and Brown families sued Simpson in civil court, and their predominately-White jury unanimously found Simpson liable for the murders. He was ordered to pay a total of $33.5 million - $8.5 million in compensatory damages to the Goldmans, and $25 million in punitive damages to be split between the Goldmans and Nicole's children. Unable to financially pay the suit because his income never recovered, the Goldmans have viciously sought to repossess any of his valuable assets. Unable to touch his pension by law, they tried to sell his mansion, but it had such little value because so many loans had been taken out against it to pay Simpson's legal fees. Instead, they acquired many of Simpson's personal memorabilia and autographs of himself to sell at auction, including his awarded Heisman Trophy - the Goldmans sold it at auction for $500,000. Simpson would never receive an offer to appear on television again, with the exception of talking about the murders or case. He has never received an endorsement deal since the trial.
A once American hero, to all Americans, was accused of a crime, proven innocent, but still couldn't regain his heroic image, and continues to be hated by most Whites who unitedly still affirm his guilt. When Simpson led his friends to reclaim stolen memorabilia (including his personal trophies) from a Las Vegas hotel room, where his friends were carrying concealed weapons, he would face similar scrutiny as he did when accused of murders of Brown and Goldman. This time, he would be tried by a nearly all-White jury, with a White female judge, who publicly voiced her personal disgust with him. October 3, 2008, 13 years to the day after Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Brown and Goldman, he was found guilty of all 10 charges against him, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada; Simpson is eligible for parole in October 2017. Once an American hero, Simpson would ultimately succumb to a broken legacy, and another victim to a broken judicial system that has devastated the Black community, and nearly all of it's heroes.
START OF A NEW DECADE & ERA
A REVIVED COMMUNITY
Between 1980 and 2000 in the United States, African Americans would see a disproportionate, rapid, steady increase in their incarceration - 1 in every 6 Black men would be incarcerated. The majority of the arrests for Blacks in America would be for minor offenses, usually related to dealing or possessing drugs, rather than violent crimes. In those years, drug arrests for African Americans rose from 6.5% to 29%. During the same period, White drug arrests barely rose from 3.5% to 4.6%. By the late 1990s, roughly 1 in every 25 Black men were incarcerated, in comparison to 1 in every 115 White men. Now, 1 out of every 3 Black men in America can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
Within 2 years of President Clinton taking office, 24 states would enact the highly controversial "three-strikes law", which imposes harsh sentences on repeat offenders if they have previously been convicted of two prior "serious" criminal offenses, in hopes to incapacitate those who are "more likely" to commit crimes. Those convicted under the three-strikes law almost always results in a life sentence punishment. California, who had always been known as a "democratic" and liberal state, would enforce the harshest three-strike laws, mandating a minimum sentence of 25-to-life even if the third offense was not violent or a serious offense. A study in 1999 revealed that dropping crimes rates were the same in countries with both light and harsh enforcement. In California, African American men are disproportionately impacted by the law; Blacks only constitute roughy 3% of the population in California, but represented 33% of second-strikers, and 44% of third-strikers. Studies reveal that where the three strikes law is enforced the most, there were no reduction in crime rate decrease to attribute - crime decreased the most due to lower alcohol consumption and unemployment.
There are strong racial biases from overburdened public defenders, racism from officers and courts, fear of Black equality (or superiority), and money, that are at the core for placing - and keeping - African Americans in jail in the United States. Black males are typically stereotyped by various false images portrayed by the media, most who are type cast as drug dealers, gangsters, pimps, and more. Directly planting evidence was a common practice from officers who wanted to increase their arrest rates or target certain Blacks. Due to the lack of DNA evidence and technology during this period, many would be falsely incarcerated, sentenced to lengthy years in prison, only to be released when it was proven that they were innocent and a victim of an officer who planted evidence against them. Unfortunately, most Blacks were swiftly incarcerated because they were unable to financially afford to hire defense, and forced to use the controversially-failed "public defense" system.
Because public defenders are typically responsible for more cases than they can effectively manage, they must decide which of their cases will receive the bulk of their limited resources and attention. It's a process called “triage” because of its similarity to that of emergency room doctors when they decide which of their patients to treat first. Racial bias has had an effect on which cases are worth their time and energy as well as how they interact with clients. The majority of public defenders are White and Jewish, and although Blacks make up the majority of the prison population across the country, the most successful in getting cases overturned are for White clients. Blacks have the highest sententences for non-violent crimes than any other race; many African Americans received life sentences or sentences of 10 years or more, for drug possession or intent to sell. Whites however have the highest rates for violent crimes (including sexual assault, sexual abuse, child molestation, child rape, and rape), and have received the lowest sentences. Whites also serve less than 85% of their sentences in jail, have higher rates for parole release, and serve less time for violent crimes than non violent crimes (like possession of marijuana) committed by Blacks.
The United States has locked up more of its citizens than any other country in the world - a half million more than China, which has a population that is 5 times greater than America. There are huge financial gains from jails and prisons, along with the courts that prosecute them. If a city has heightened crime, they can make the argument that more police officers are needed to keep peace in the streets. In addition, more corrections officers are needed to supervise the incarcerated, as well as a bureaucracy of officials to oversee prison and inmate operations. There are also nurses, doctors, priests, and other staff needed to support the prison or jail, which creates massive employment opportunities when the prisons are close in full capacity. Prisoners are also hired for labor work, for cents or $1 -2 dollars, since they are not bound to worker's rights; in privately-run prisons, prison workers receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, which is the equivalent of $20 per month. Some of the most successful companies in the world are benefiting off of the labor of prisoners in the United States, and some opt for prisoners over employees. In Texas alone, a factory fired 150 employees and then contracted prison-workers from Lockhard Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies including IBM and Compaq.
President Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations. After the President implemented future Vice President Joe Biden's Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, $9.7 billion was given in increased funding for prisons and stiffer penalties for drug offenders. By 1996, importing and exporting inmates was nearly as profitable as a modern-day slave trade. In Texas for example, after a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts to build and run new jails, as long as they shared the profits. The program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, American Express, and Allstate, and the operation occurred throughout rural Texas. New York followed this example. Some of the CCA prisons offered "rent-a-cell" services in Texas; each rent-a-cell "salesman" got a commission off of his success - $5.50 per day per bed, while they the County got $1.50 for each prisoner incarcerated.
It would be Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, the two biggest corporations that operate detention centers in the U.S., that have found the most profits in prisons. Henri Wedell - a Southern White conservative - personally has profited the most, as a member of the CAA Board of Directors, owning 650,000 shares in stock within the company (worth $25 million). The second-biggest investor, George Zoley, the Greek CEO of GEO Group has made millions every year - he has made $23 million in stock trades, and also owns millions in stock. Jewish investors Jeremy Mindich and Matt Sirovich run Scopia Capital, a hedge fund that is one of the largest shareholders of GEO Group - the fund owns roughly $300 million in shares in the company. The Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments - the 2 top 401(k) providers in the United States - are also the 2 of the private prison industry's greatest investors; the two companies combined own roughly 20% of the CAA and GEO Corporations. Public school teachers retirement funds are also the top investors in private prisons - retirement funds for public employees and teachers in California and New York combined have roughly $60 million invested in CAA and GEO.
Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and Colorado all have millions connected to and invested in the jail industry. There are occupancy guarantee clauses in private prisons, that range between 80% to 100%, with 90% being the most occupancy requirement. Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia, and Oklahoma are in contracts with the highest occupancy requirements - between 95% to 100% occupancy. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits for prisons went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. The prison industry is a $5 billion dollar industry today, a critical element to the United States economy. "Crime" must continue, and "criminals" must be sentenced to prisons for long periods of time to continue the America's financial flow - which leads to a vicious cycle of Blacks being sent to jail, and repeatedly returning to jail after their first incarceration. The United States economy is once again being developed and sustained by African American laborers.
But conditions during this era were not much betters for African Americans outside of jail either. By 1991, 1/3 of the entire Black population in the United States was in poverty. Most of the urban communities took a downward spiral through the 90s, while there were huge improvements in suburbs and business areas. Most major grocery store chains by the mid 1990s (i.e. Safeway, Kroger) would not service areas that were deemed impoverished because they believed the people would have no way of paying for the groceries, and because of elevated crime in those areas, believed they would opt to steal or rob the stores instead. As a replacement, many Black neighborhoods would host dozens of "liquor store" and 7-Eleven chains, that carry various snack items as well as bread, milk, cheese, and eggs - at a much higher rate than the grocery stores. But because many of the impoverished can't leave the cities they are in, due to lack of transportation or lack of funds for transportation, they are stuck with the foods and items that these stores possess, many that are unhealthy, worsening their conditions in other ways, unknowingly. By the year 1999, Blacks would make up 23.6% of the poverty line, where Whites had an all time low in poverty rate, 7.5%.
Outside of keeping Blacks poor or incarcerated, there was also continued atrocious violent attacks against African Americans near the end of the 1990s. In the summer of 1998, James Byrd, a Black male, had accepted a ride home from John King (age 23), Shawn Berry (age 24), and Lawrence Russell Brewer (age 31). Berry had known and was friendly-acquainted with Byrd. But instead of taken Byrd home, the White 3 men kidnapped him, took him to a remote road out of town, beat him, and then urinated on him. The men then chain Byrd by the ankles, attached him to their pickup truck, and then drug him for approximately 1.5 miles. Byrd would meet his death when his right arm and head were severed off. Berry, Brewer and King dumped the mutilated remains of Byrd's body in front of an African-American church moments following. They then drove off to attend a barbecue. The men were known White supremacists and boasted of their disgusting crime.
Byrd's brain and skull were found intact, along with his limbs that were found scattered across the road. The police would find 81 places that were covered in Byrd's remains. Byrd's autopsy concluded that he was alive for much of the dragging and attempted to keep his head up while being dragged. Berry, Brewer and King were tried and convicted for Byrd's murder. Brewer and King received the death penalty, while Berry was sentenced to life in prison. Brewer was executed by lethal injection on September 21, 2011. King remains on death row in Texas. This would be just another example of the continued cycle of vicious attacks against African Americans, unprovoked, that only got worse in years to come.
Tupac Shakur (born Lesane Parish Cooks) from Harlem, New York, was from a family of active Black Panther Party members in the 1960s and through the 1970s. They would have a major influence on Shakur's ideals, understandings of the law, and the United States government. At an early age, Shakur would show talent in the arts, and was enrolled in Harlem's 127th Street Repertory Ensemble; Shakur would be cast as the Travis Younger character in the play A Raisin in the Sun, which was performed at the Apollo Theater. Shakur relocated to Baltimore, Maryland with his family in his early teen years, and transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts - a prestigious school for gifted students that focuses on poetry, acting, and ballet - where he would begin a lifelong friendship with future accomplished actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. Shakur was popular at school because of his upbeat personality, sense of humor, and superior rapping skills. When he was 17, his life would change after his family moved to Marin City, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he would experience a new set of hardships and similar oppressions that his mother - and aunt Assata Shakur - had warned him about.
After Shakur graduated high school, he moved to Oakland, California and was set up as a roadie and back up dancer to the successful Bay Area hip hop group Digital Underground in 1990. They would invite him to record a verse on "Same Song", which went on to be a popular hit amongst young adults and in the Black communities, partnered with an accompanying music video which exposed a young Shakur to an even wider audience. To showcase himself solely, Shakur would release his debut, 2Pacalypse Now, which lyrically focused on contemporary social issues that Blacks were facing, such as racism, poverty, violence, teenage pregnancy, and Black-on-Black crime. Like many other young Black rappers of the era, Shakur's album would give those outside of the urban streets a glimpse into a young Black man's life in the United States. The album got American's attention.
After a Texas defense attorney claimed he was influenced by the album, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized it, and its strong theme of police brutality, saying "There's no reason for a record like this to be released. It has no place in our society." Media outlets didn't support Shakur, instead focused on the perception of him and emphasizing that his lyrics were "violent", rather than "educational". Shakur, who had been rapping about occurrences in his own life and those around him, which involved being victims of violence at the hands of White police officers and racism, felt misunderstood. He would reply to Quayle's comments "I started out saying I was down for the young Black male, you know, and that was gonna be my thang. I just wanted to rap about things that affected young Black males. When I said that, I didn't know that I was gonna tie myself down to just take all the blunts and hits for all the young Black males, to be the media's kicking post for young Black males. I just figured since I lived that life I could do that, I could rap about that". The incident would spark a battle between Shakur, the United States government, and the media that would last for the rest of his life. At the same time, and on the opposite side of the country, another young Black ambitious rapper from Brooklyn, New York would gain similar attention for having heavy lyrics that were centered around violence, drugs, and poverty in his neighborhood.
Christopher Wallace, was born to a Jamaican preschool teacher and a welder turned-Jamaican politician living in Brooklyn, New York. His father would leave the family when he was 2 years old. Although the conditions in his Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn were deteriorating, Wallace, guided by his mother, focused his attention on academics and excelled in school years early on. But at age 12, pressured by the living conditions his family was living in - they often had no food and no consistent electricity in the unit - Wallage started befriending drug dealers that had infiltrated the streets in his neighborhood, who would often give food and items to the poor. To start supporting his single mother financially, Wallace started dealing drugs unbeknownst to her - keeping bills paid on time, and enabling them to buy food. He tired of the strict prep-school he was attending - Roman Catholic Bishop Laughing Memorial High School - and requested to be transferred to state-funded George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where he was amongst fellow future hip hop stars Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z. Here he developed an "attitude", started rebelling, and eventually dropped out.
Wallace would start a full-time life of crime by age 17 - he would be arrested that same year on weapons charges in Brooklyn and sentenced to 5 years probation. To relieve himself of the criminal life he had succumbed to, and to entertain those around him, Wallace would develop his lyrics and rapping skills. Dubbed "Biggie" at an early age because of his large size, the monicker would carry him into his adult years; he stood 6 feet 3 inches, and weight between 300 to 380 pounds. But although he was passionate about rapping, he wasn't earning an income off of it, so his focus remained on crime - he would spend 9 months in jail for dealing crack in North Carolina. But after a demo cassette tape was made, with no intent of securing a record deal, prompted the attention from The Source - a hip hop magazine - to feature Wallace in their 1992 Source Unsigned Hype column, he caught the attention from Uptown Records A&R and record producer Sean Combs and shift what was happening in hip hop.
The commercial successes of Digital Underground, N.W.A. and the subsequent solo careers of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, along with other Death Row Records (a record label owned by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre) artists Warren G, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Michele, and international phenomenon MC Hammer, the West Coast separated itself as the dominate region for hip hop in the early 1990s. A very different style was coming from rappers out of the New York - the birthplace of hip hop - than those in California, and East Coast rappers struggled to find record deals and interests. In 1993, after being fired in his A&R executive role, Sean "Puff Daddy" combs founded the New York-centered-hip hop label, Bad Boy Records, to relaunch East Coast-sounding hip hop, and bring attention back to New York talent. After the launch and immediate commercial success of Craig Mack's debut album, there would be a opportune opening for other artists like Bad Boy label mate Notorious B.I.G. to enter the West Coast-dominated rap scene. His popularity sparked almost overnight, after appearing on Mary J Blige's "Real Love" remix, and after making a memorable appearance on Craig Mack's remix for "Flava in Ya Ear". The East Coast was back on the map in hip hop by 1994.
Shakur and Wallace had been friends stemming back to Shakur's roots in the East Coast, and also had intertwined social circles, and business associates. They had performed together, partied together, and shared mutual respects for each others struggles within their respected neighborhoods. 2pac was leading a rapidly successful career - even as the media constantly labeled him as a "thug" and tried to break his image - both as a rapper and actor. He completed successful films Juice, Above the Rim, Poetic Justice, and released a multi-platinum album "Me Against the World". The album would lyrically showcase more of the philospher-style persona Shakur really was, which again were far from the "thuggish" and violent Black man that the media was portraying him to be. In 1994, while Shakur was in New York, a few Bad Boy associates, who acted as "street-guards" would stay with him to ensure his safety while there, and show him a good time in their neighborhoods. Unbeknownst to Shakur, the "protection" and good time during the few days he was there would come at a cost - Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs had told his entourage that he expected Shakur to sign to Bad Boy as an artist. But Shakur refused Combs' offer while still in New York. A few days later, a woman who was sexually involved with Shakur and a few Bad Boys associates a few days earlier, accused rape against them. The Bad Boys associates would have separate cases from Shakur, for "undisclosed" reasons, and were given "undisclosed" agreements for their release - Shakur felt he was being set up by them, and that their agreements were similar to those who were police informants. He immediately alerted his friends and acquaintances of what was happening, and his accusations against Bad Boy - due to Shakur's clout and street respect, heavily damaging to Sean Combs' name.
While Shakur was on bail and still in New York, Wallace loosely informed him that he had heard people were looking for him and to watch it while roaming about, but wouldn't reveal any additional information - Wallace would tell friends later that it "wasn't his place" to give out any more information. The night before the verdict for Shakur's trial was to be announced, he was recording guest vocals on a track for Uptown Artist, Little Shawn, at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan, New York - sources claim it was taken as an insult by Sean Combs, that Shakur worked with an Uptown artist, being that Combs had just been fired from the label a year prior. Hours later, Shakur was robbed, beaten, and shot 5 times by three men in the lobby of the recording studio. He was struck twice in the head, twice in the groin and once in one hand. Shakur and his associates immediately and publicly blamed Sean Combs, and his "Bad Boy" crew, for the shooting.
Shakur checked out of the Bellevue Hospital Center against doctor's orders, three hours after surgery. He entered the courthouse the next day in a wheelchair, and was found guilty of three counts of molestation, including sodomy, and was sentenced to serve up to 5 years in New York's Clinton Correctional Facility. Shakur would spend 9 months in jail, unable to raise the $1.4 million dollar bail for his temporary release. Suge Knight - a 28 year old retired NFL player and body guard - had the funds, and would post the money in exchange for 3 recorded albums under his new Death Row Record label. Knight had already been fueding with Sean Combs after he accused Combs for being involved in his friend's murder at a party for Jermain Dupri. With their common detest for Sean Combs and "Bad Boy", Shakur and Knight would join together in furthering the feud. Wallace, loyal to Bad Boy Founder and CEO Sean Combs, defended the allegations Shakur made against his friend Combs, and mocked Shakur's near-death experience by releasing the song "Who Shot Ya".
After the shooting occurred, the only known publications that were really covering the story were Vibe and The Source - popular publications rarely mentioned hip hop artists or news, and were reluctant in giving too much attention to the rap genre. In the April 1995 issue of Vibe, Shakur publicly accused his former friend Wallace, Bad Boy CEO Sean Combs, and other Bad Boy associates of coordinating his shooting. No comments would be made from Wallace in the issue of that magazine. Wallace would instead be featured on a cover of his own, stating his own opinions, this time without any input from Shakur. Selling magazines highlighting the drama between the two former friends became the focus of Vibe, rather than journalism or covering more relevant things happening in hip hop, like they were known for. But America bought it, never seeing such height in rivalry from the most popular rap artists of the era, and wanted to know all about it. Jewish owned publications - like the Washington Post and the New York Times - would start heavily circulating articles about Shakur, Wallace, Death Row Records, and Bad Boy Records. They would highly concentrate on their feuds, but would also try to destroy their images, taking the most violent lyrics of their non-radio single songs, and quoting them in their publications, commonly type casting them as "gangstas" or "thugs".
The lyrics exchanged during the time between the East Coast and West Coast rappers only escalated, and with the help of the media fueling the fire between the two former friends and promoting East Coast vs West Coast regionalism across the country, shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and more started containing who they supported.
When there was no news, and when the artists were trying to get on with their lives, news outlets would report false comments made by each party, instigated each others responding statements, while adding more false details to what was actually said, just to get more reaction from each party. The rivalry would garner a reaction from thousands of Black teenagers, who felt influenced by the artists and loyal to their respective regions, including violence. The media continued to cash-in and made it a focal point of news outlets to mention East Coast vs West Coast rivalries, and the "beef" between Death Row Records and Bad Boy recording artists. The rivalry would receive more media coverage from Jewish and White operated sources than several other notable critical events happening around the world - such as the Rwandan Massacre (a genocide where roughly 1,000,000 Africans were killed), the Northridge Earthquake (a 6.7 earthquake in Southern California, and one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history), or rapid internet innovations after Netscape Navigator was released (which was practically the start of internet availability for most Americans at the time).
Shakur, who was never a gangster or wanted to live the life of one, tried to separate himself from the frenzy, often citing the media during the spectacle as instigators and told fans they were blowing things out of proportion. But the affect had already taken its toll on many African American males, who were caught up in the sensationalism of belonging to a loyal community (either east coast or west coast), and fueding with other Blacks around "whose rapper is better" and tying their region.
After attending a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas with his friends and label mates MC Hammer, Aaron Hall, and Suge Knight, his fiancee Kadida Jones (daughter of Quincy Jones), Shakur would leave with Knight to head to a club after-party. Shortly after, a white Cadillac pulled up on Knight's right side, rolled down a window, and rapidly fired gunshots at Shakur. He was hit in the chest, pelvis, and his right hand and thigh, with one bullet hitting his right lung. Knight was hit in the head by a fragmentation but suffered no other injuries. Shakur was taken to the University Medical Center of Souther Nevada, and although in pain, was completely coherent, talking and yelling at the medical staff around him to leave him alone. He wished to release himself from their care, similar to how he did in New York a year prior - which anyone has the right to do in a hospital. When Shakur arose from his bed and started to leave, he was placed under a medically-induced coma. Shakur was pronounced dead the next day. He was 25 years old.
No one would see or identify Shakur's body in Las Vegas after he was pronounced dead, not even his mother. His body has never been seen since he was pronounced dead. Suge Knight claimed he personally paid a man $3m to cremate Shakur's body the next day, but never heard from the man again, and the man was never seen again. The Outlawz, a rap group that Shakur had been mentoring, would claim for 20 years that they mixed Shakur's ashes with their marijuana and smoked it. They recently admitted that they were lied to, and that the ashes they smoked, were not really Shakur's. An autopsy photo was leaked by the media, to show "proof" that Shakur had really died, in hopes to put an end to any conspiracy theories. But it would be a failure - the photo had clearly left out a few noticeable and popular tattoos that Shakur had on his body prior to the shooting, which revealed that the photo was created and wasn't real. Most fans believe Shakur escaped the United States, in steps similar to his aunt and Black Panther Party legend Assata Shakur, fleeing to Cuba.
Many Shakur fans once again blamed Sean Combs and his "Bad Boy" entourage for the attack. Elevated because their young, outspoken, talented artist Shakur was gone, tensions between the East and West Coast regions were at an all time high. Fearing that more rapper-murders would follow, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre would start pursuing projects outside of Death Row Records, and tried to mend ties between all faces of hip hop. Unfortunately, those in Southern California, who were still devastated and angry at the loss of Shakur, didnt feel the same. After Wallace, Sean Combs, and Bad Boy artists were leaving a Soul Train Awards after-party in Los Angeles, a sedan pulled up on the side of Wallace's SUV, and opened fire. Wallace was struck 4 times - the first bullet hit his left forearm, the second hit his back and excited his shoulder, the third hit his upper left thigh and went through his inner thigh, and the fourth, the fatal bullet, entered through his right hip and struck his colon, liver, heart, and lung, then stopped in his left shoulder. He was rushed by his friends and entourage to the hospital, but pronounced dead 30 minutes later. He was 24 years old. Wallace was murdered roughly 6 months after the loss of Shakur.
The shooters of Wallace and Shakur have never been identified. The rivalry of both Coasts ended immediately following, as Blacks in both regions hated the violence and were never a fan of the feud to begin with, but were pressured into involvement by the media. Death Row Records started dissolving after the loss of their core artists. Bad Boy would capitalize on the murder of their artist Wallace, doing a series of musical dedications to him, which would catapult Sean Combs into a decade-long mega-stardom. Once the feud died, the media gradually suffered in sales - as they would go back to their normal featured stories that weren't entertainment-focused - in which the drama of Black entertainers were becoming more interesting to Americans, and they would find creative ways to continue featuring Blacks in their headlines.
In the late 1970s, an underground movement was taking place in the urban areas of the Bronx in New York City called "Hip Hop". DJ Clive "Kool Here" Campbell would host parties at his high-rise apartment home in New York, where he would notoriously toast impromptu speeches over a microphone. The style spread across the boroughs. The style of the poetic rhymes over music would become "emceeing", usually accompanied by a beat. With most of the boroughs surrounding Manhattan in poverty (Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem) due to the recession and effects of Reaganomics, streets gangs became more and more prevalent. They would often "tag" graffiti on public properties (buildings, railroad cars, and signs), to signify their prominence, and rivalries caused explosions of graffiti in and out of their streets. "Rapping" or "emceeing" would follow, and soon artists, mostly Black, would poetically rhyme against each other in competitions to claim their street gang's dominance. Afrika Bombataa saw the talents of these artists early on and wanted to show that many of the street gang members could express themselves creatively instead of diverting to violence . He would form the Zulu Nation, a confederation of street dancers, graffiti artists, and rap musicians.
The DJ was the centerpiece of hip hop music and the a critical component to the culture. The DJ was the one who provided the music, usually encompassing of classics, combined with beat-machines to encompass newer styles that when combined, created a new sound. Traditionally the DJ would use two turntables simultaneously, connected to a mixer, amplifier, and speaker. He or she would provide the platform for the emcee(s) to showcase their rapping skills, often manipulating the sound to contributing to the audiences reaction to it. "Beatboxing" also was a groundbreaking sound in the growing hip hop culture, embracing the creation of the rhythmic beats by using the mouth. Pioneers such as Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and Buffy from the Fat Boys would create rhythmic beats and sounds using their mouths, lips, tongue, voice, hands, and more.
Thomas Edison recorded a young Black child performing spinning on top of his head and dancing for tips on the street in 1898, but it wouldn't be until the late 1970s that the style would transform into a form of"B-Boying". The term "b-boy" (which stands for "break-boy") was created by DJ Kool Herc - a Jamaican-American DJ in New York - after seeing dancers moving to the break part of the music. Originated and developed by African American and Puerto Rican youths, "b-boying" would consist of gymnastic and acrobatic moves, Afro-Brazilian martial arts, many with an influence from James Brown, Michael Jackson, and the Kung-Fu movies that were prominent in the 1970s, along with freezing, strutting, spinning, and complex footwork. Pioneers for b-boying would include Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon, Kenneth "Ken Swift" Gabbert, the Rock Steady Crew, the "Zulu Kings", and Lil Lep of the New York City Breakers. The media took notice of the movement and started calling it "breakdancing" - which is a derogatory term for the movement - after highlighting so-called "tricks" from the dancers. They would falsely promote that b-boying and breakdancing consisted of popping, locking, and the electric boogaloo - but those were not styles of the movement, they were styles developed in California during the height of the funk era in the 1970s. The media exploited the dancers, and made millions off of their talents - minimal compensation (if any) was given to the artists themselves. Movies like Breakin', Breakin' 2, Wild Style, and Beat Street would expose the dancing styles to the world, and would spread in quick adoption from the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Canada, Japan, and France.
Hip Hop pioneers, like KRS-One, had created their own record labels and production companies to distribute their sound to the masses, rather than waiting for major record labels (who weren't signing rap artists) to show interest. When Russell Simmons co-founded Def Jam - the music industry's first hip-hop artist-focused record label - it would catapolt the genre and its artists to stardom. Rap artists like LL Cool J, Run DMC, EPMD, and Public Enemy would be international mega stars, each who had their own unique style of rapping, lyricism, and focuses, that would influence generations to come. The emergence of music videos - due to the launch and popularity of MTV - gave Black hip hop artists an even larger platform to express themselves, and to new audiences. Since nearly all of the popular hip hop artists of the movement were Black, the neighborhoods they filmed their music videos in, as well as the people that were featured in their videos, all represented what was happening in their Black communities. This caused some hesitancy from middle and upper-class Whites who were seeing the influence of the culture on their children. To tap into their audience, Rick Rubin of Def Jam Records would turn a 4-piece hardcore punk rock band of White teens, into the Beastie Boys. They would become tremendously successful with White audiences - their rap music is even often played on hard rock radio stations, although their music doesn't fit into the genre. Hip hop gave young African Americans a platform for their voices nonetheless, regardless of artistic style, to be heard. The issues that the Black communities were facing on a daily basis, which often contained violence, oppression, and racism, would be shared with the world by 1986.
DESTROYING AMERICA'S HERO
In the late 1970s, Columbian drug traffickers developed elaborate ways in smuggling cocaine into the United States. It dominated the illegal-drug market for the rich, and those heavy in club circuits. It was known as the "rich man's drug", due to it being an expensive habit for short lived highs - if snorted, cocaine reaches the brain in 3-5 minutes and the "high" last between 60-90 minutes. With many Blacks wanting to assimilate into rich White societies, and prove themselves capable of the same lifestyles as they, there would be a spike in African Americans using cocaine. But the cost was way too expensive compared to other illegal-drugs on the market, and with the recession still plaguing Blacks, who were seeing a sharp decline in their income and assistance, Blacks needed a better solution for a "quick high". By the early 1980s, the cocaine trade was a billion-dollar empire in the United States, glamorized, and exploited (such as in movies Scarface). The majority of the cocaine was being shipped through the Bahamas and Dominican Republic, and landed in Miami, Florida. When the cocaine powder reached its peak in export, it caused glut in the islands it was being shipped through, resulting a price drop by as much as 80%. There was too much product, with too little demand, causing an instant end to the huge financial profits that had once been seen - the cocaine-rush was over. In order to save the illegal product and it's billion-dollar empire in the United States, drug dealers started converting the cocaine powder to a smokeable form. It was dubbed as crack-cocaine, with "crack" as a descriptor because of the sound the pipe makes upon inhaling the drug. It could be sold cheaper, in more quantities, and to more people.
In 1981, reports of crack cocaine were suddenly appearing in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. The simplicity in making crack, and its high-yeilding profit potential, were key factors that led to its widespread expansion in the early 1980s. It was easy to make and cocaine still was desired by a large consumer base, they just couldn't afford the habits of powder cocaine. Crack was favorable by Blacks because it had higher purity than cocaine street powder - cost being the biggest factor. Around 1984, powder cocaine was available at an average of 55% purity for $100 per gram, while crack was sold at average purity levels of 80% for the same price. Urban cities with high Black populations, such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Detroit would offer one dosage of crack for as little as $2.50. The association of crack with poor, combined with the urban areas where it was sold, the violence connected with the rapid expansion of the crack market, and the stereotype that cocaine was still the "rich man's drug of choice", changed how the American public perceived the drug.
While Reagan had zero tolerance for illegal drugs, waging a "war on drugs" with his wife Nancy - who even got to the forefront of battling drugs with her "just say no" campaign - he would contradict himself through his policies. There had been reports of links between government employees, law enforcement officers, drug dealers, and the Contras (United States-backed and funded terrorist rebel groups) that were supplying them. In 1982, President Reagan signed the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17), which gave the CIA the authority to recruit and support Contras with $19 million in military aid. In early 1984, U.S. officials began receiving reports of Contra cocaine trafficking. One reliable source, a former Panamanian deputy health minister Dr. Hugo Spadafora, outlined charges of cocaine trafficking linking Sebastián González Mendiola to a prominent Panamanian official. He was later found murdered. By the end of 1984, the U.S. Congress would approve $24 million in aid to the Contra rebels. The American press continuously covered concerns about the links between Contras, drug traffickers, and the U.S. government, which led to a review by the United States Department of States and the Department of Justice. The State Department would later inform Congress that they had "evidence of a limited number of incidents in which known drug traffickers tried to establish connections with Nicaraguan resistance groups (Contras)".
By the end of 1986, crack was available in 28 states, and by the following year, it was available in all but four. African Americans were the number 1 consumers of the drug, and it was the most prominent drug in nearly all urban neighborhoods. Sadly, many of the locations associated with the sale of crack would be on the various Martin Luther King Jr Ave/Ct/St that were highly concentrated with Blacks across the nation - which would give new negative association to the King name and legacy. Crack was highly addicting, and because of the intense high that is given with short-term effects, its users would dedicate most of their incomes to feed their habits. Families were affected and at jeopardy, because many were engulfed in their addictions and could not care for additional people in their household, and instead wanted to fund their next high. The United States Government continued their activities in bringing the drug into Black communities without consequence. A Contra leader in 1985 "told U.S. authorities that his group was being paid $50,000 by Colombian traffickers for help with a 100-kilo cocaine shipment and that the money would go 'for the cause' of fighting the Nicaraguan government." 5 American Contra supporters who worked with the rebels confirmed the charges about U.S. involvement, noting that "2 Cuban-Americans used armed rebel troops to guard cocaine at clandestine airfields in northern Costa Rica. They identified the Cuban-Americans as members of Brigade 2506, an anti-Castro group that participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba. Several also said they supplied information about the smuggling to U.S. investigators." One of the Americans said that in one ongoing operation, the cocaine was "unloaded from planes at rebel airstrips and taken to an Atlantic coast port" where it was "concealed on shrimp boats that are later unloaded in the Miami area".
Future-Senator John Kerry investigated the links between corrupt government officials and the Contras in 1984 - completed by the Kerry Committee - and reported the findings in 1986. The Kerry Committee report found that "the Contra drug links included ... payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges", while some traffickers "were under active investigation by these same agencies.". The U.S. State Department paid over $806,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras. Reagan didnt deny the allegations, and on April 17th 1986 his Administration released a 3-page report stating that there were some Contra-cocaine connections in 1984 and 1985. The drug, and the affects it would have on the Black community, were already irreversible by that time.
When Blacks were struggling to cope with the downward shift in their communities with the crack epidemic, they would soon face an even more direct epidemic that would exterminate them by the thousands - Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). In July 1981, there were 26 cases of a thought "rare cancer" in homosexual men in New York and California. Of those cases reported, only one of them was African American. By the end of the year, there were 159 reported cases. Because all of the cases reported had been from gay men - mostly White men - the term "GRID", which stood for "gay-related immune deficiency", had been coined as the term to describe the disease. Once more cases were reported the following year, from drug-addicted White men and women - who were dominant users of injecting drugs by needle - the disease was no longer isolated to the Gay Community, and the term "AIDS" was made the official term to describe the rapidly ascending disease. The person infected would usually complain of enlarged lymph nodes, and sudden flu-like symptoms that would worsen, with a high fever that would not subside. Then a skin rash would develop all over the body, lesions, representing the body's inability to fight the infection. The infected would experience constant variations of nausea, pain, fatigue, dizziness, blood loss through vomit or in the stool, whooping cough, and more, for usually 1-2 years which would result in their ultimate death.
There was one African American reported with AIDS when it was first discovered in 1981 (the 25 others were White, and few Latino). By the following year, there were more than 86 reports of African Americans infected with the disease - making up 20% of the entire cases reported for that year. That same year, the disease would suddenly appear in the heart of Africa, Central Africa, and spread like wildfire throughout the continent, starting an epidemic crisis that has yet to end. By 1983, 1,025 AIDS cases were reported, and at least 394 had died in the United States. By 1984, there were 4,177 reported cases in America and 1,807 deaths - In San Francisco alone, the health department reported more than 500 cases, which was among the highest in the country. That same year, it was reported that 50% of all pediatric AIDS cases in the United States were among African Americans. Reagan would make no addresses to the nation about it. Nancy Reagan however would make a comment at a White House state dinner, expressing concern for a guest who showed signs of significant weight loss, believing the person was potentially infected. Blacks and homosexuals made up the majority of those infected with HIV and AIDS in the United States during this period. 6,000 Americans died, and Reagan would still refuse to acknowledge the epidemics existence. Most of his supports were White conservatives who campaigned against "welfare Blacks" (which was generalized to Blacks) and homosexuals, which had an effect on him taking action in controlling its spread or curing those dying from it. Reagan would address AIDS to the nation for the first time, in 1987, the last year of his term. When he spoke of it, 36,058 Americans had already been diagnosed with the disease, and 20,849 had died.
The increase in homelessness during Reagan's administration was calamitous. By the end of his term in the late 1980s, homelessness had swollen from 600,000 to over 1 million, during the course of one year. Most to the homeless were Black Vietnam veterans, the others consisted primarily of those who had been laid-off and couldn't find work. Reagan would address allegations of his apathy towards the homeless in an interview on Good Morning America, saying “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice”. Reagan would practically leave the sick, poor, and homeless, to fend for themselves.
Reagan believed that by implementing his "Reaganomics" plan, the financial suffrage of Americans would end. He promoted that the economy would be stimulated after implementing large, across-the-board tax cuts. Reagan also argued that economic growth would occur when marginal tax-rates were low enough to spur investments. If investors were putting their money into building American companies and investing in existing businesses, it would result in economic growth across the country, because it would provide more job opportunities. Reagan needed Americans to start spending money again to stimulate the economy, and needed his conservatives at the heads of the businesses. He wanted to return to free enterprise principles and a free market economy, which was practices before FDR's New Deal, when the United States was ran by known-racists and employed racist practices to oppress Blacks. Whites across the country were in support of Reagan's economic policies, and it opened the door for many of them to start businesses or relaunch investments. Wall Street's boom in the 1980s was largely credited to Reagan, and made thousands of White and Jewish traders wealthy overnight - movies like Wall Street were released during the time to showcase this. But unbeknownst to most Americans, Reagan was borrowing the money that was being used to start businesses and revive the U.S. economy - domestically and abroad. He would raise the national debt from $1.1 trillion to $2.7 trillion.
Young White men in the American North East - particularly New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Boston - had flourishing careers in investment banking, accounting, and as traders in the Stock Exchange in the early 1980s. They were coined "Yuppies" during the period. They typically made their separation socially by wearing expensive suits, driving expensive Porsche and Alfa Romeo cars, and buying lavish properties. The young White children, who were once active in boycotting the integration of Blacks in their schools in the 1960s, were now mature adults operating and owning businesses in the 1980s. Many would employ discriminatory practices that made it nearly impossible for Blacks to be employed in their companies. And now these same business owners had a conservative President, who shared many of the ideals as they, who would partner in expanding discrimination across the workforce, repressing Blacks. Reagan would give small businesses the power to segregate the businesses they owned, and the residences they rented out. Reagan believed, if a man wanted to discriminate against another from renting homes or to buy in their establishments based on race, it was his right to do so.
Reagan did not support government intervention in helping the impoverished or lower class, especially when it came to aiding African Americans. He believed most were cheating the welfare system, and publicly spoke against welfare. He would repeatedly invoke the story of a "Chicago Welfare Queen", who he said had "80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 social security cards" who is "collecting veteran’s benefits on 4 non-existing deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.” Reagan would place his mythical "welfare queen" behind the wheel of a Cadillac, living a luxurious life, on someone else's (wealthy Whites) dollars. Beyond propagating a stereotypical image of a lazy, cunning, larcenous black woman who rips off society’s "generosity" without remorse, Reagan also implied a stereotype for Whites: they were the hard-workers, loyal tax payers, the ones who were "doing the right thing" but still struggling, while brazen African Americans (and other minorities) lived lavishly off of their tax dollars. Many bought the philosophy, and the stereotype that Whites were getting "tricked" into working hard while Blacks were lazy and living off free benefits, would last for decades following.
With Reagan's looseness on federal intervention on state's rights, many would adopt practices that racially discriminated against Blacks to repress their progress in the metropolitan areas that they were populating. He would encourage redlining - the practice of denying services, by directly or via selectively raising prices to residents in certain areas based on their ethnicity - and banks, real estate agents, and landlords used federal information from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to evaluate their prospective tenants. Once it was leaked to the media that Blacks were being victimized by these illegal practices, Reagan's team didn't stop it from continuing, he furthered it. Out of the 40,000 applications from banks that requested permission to expand their operations, Reagan's bank regulators only denied 8 for violations. In addition, he would cut funding for public service jobs (which Blacks were heavily employed) and job training, federally-funded legal services for the poor, anti-poverty programs, and more. The only program that didn't get cut in urban Black communities during Reagan's initial years was federal aid for highways - which didn't benefit those who lived in the cities, but the suburbians that were driving or working in the cities.
In 1980, during Reagan's first year in office, federal dollars accounted for 22% of the budgets for major metropolitan cities - by the end of his Presidency, federal aid dropped dramatically to 6%. The cutbacks were disastrous for urban cities. They had transitioned many middle-class Blacks to lower-class, those in lower-classes to poverty, and those in poverty to stay there. It also had a devastating effect on urban schools and libraries, public hospitals and clinics, along with their police and fire departments. Many were forced to close. Getting emergency medical assistance from 911 was impossible in some of these areas, as they either didn't have enough resources to attend to the people who were calling, or outright refused to service their areas. Federally-funded hospitals - especially in Oakland, Los Angles, Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago, and Detroit - would notoriously refuse Blacks treatment in their emergency departments, even when patients were brought in with life-threatening emergencies, until their insurance information was located and verified. In addition, Reagan dramatically cut programs that were benefiting African Americans, who were relying heavily on government funding and support due to their lack of hire, including Medicaid, food stamps, and federal education programs (that Richard Nixon established before him). But as Black cities were suffering, Reagan extended more tax cuts and benefits for the White upper-class.
Although Reagan would claim his tax plan in 1981 would reduce unemployment, it actually had the opposite effect: unemployment grew more than 3% (to a total unemployment rate of 10.8%) then to a high 15.2% in 1983, which was just the first half of his initial term. By 1984, 13 million children lived below the poverty line. Conditions in the inner cities grew more desperate as relief services were cut off. While corporate executives enjoyed record profits, legions of blue collar workers saw their jobs shipped to other countries where wages were lower.
Reagan's economic regimen didn't benefit the working-class or the lower-class, which consisted mostly of African Americans. He froze the minimum wage to $3.35 an hour, slashed the budget for public housing and section 8 subsidies in half (which were primarily utilized by Blacks), and cut federal assistance to local governments by nearly 60%. Reagan's weakening of legal protections for the working class contributed to the growing income inequality during the 1980s, especially between Whites and Blacks, and still continues today.
NEW HIGHS & NEW LOWS
THE INITIAL IMPACTS
As an actor, Ronald Reagan appeared in more than 50 films, and played the hero in all of them accept one. It was a perception that carried over into his private life. He began his political career while in Hollywood, when he was elected as the President of the Screen Actors Guild and the labor union for actors. Reagan gained a faithful following, and he was elected as Governor of California during 1967 to 1975. These were critical years as they were the peak years of J Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO, and the ultimate demise to Black leadership and influence in America. Blacks in California would see a shift downwards in their income levels while Reagan was Governor, and were disproportionately working line (general labor) and defense jobs than any other race in America. After a few unsuccessful bouts in running for the Presidency, he would find the right time to win over the nation, with his fresh ideas in how to get Americans out of the recession, and back to a better quality of life overall. Reagan won the election in 1980 in a landslide, receiving the highest number of electoral votes ever won by an non-incumbent presidential candidate. At 69 years of age, Reagan would be the oldest person elected to the Presidency. His election marked the beginning of the Reagan Era, realigning conservatism in politics, and in America.
Reagan was not shy about his views on African Americans or their rights. He did not support federal initiatives to provide Black with civil rights when faced with the opportunity to do so. Reagan strongly opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both which were signed into law by then President Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) - he would remark that the Voting Rights Act was "humiliating to the South" as a key reason behind not signing it, rejecting the idea that Blacks should have the right to vote. Although Reagan did not consider himself a racist, many would argue otherwise based on his views and actions towards Blacks. When he campaigned in Georgia, he told the audience that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a "hero of mine" - Jefferson had led the Confederate States of America for the 4 years it was it's own country, stemmed from the desire to keep Blacks enslaved in the South. Jefferson's influence on Reagan would be evident during his Presidency. Reagan would start giving more control to individual States themselves, allowing the American Deep South to have free reign on imposing racist laws to repress Blacks in the region.
While White conservatives immediately saw Reagan as an ally, Blacks were seeing more and more that they were in trouble under his leadership. Reagan fought against extending the Voting Rights Act, only complying later after media and severe political pressured him to do so. He would also veto the Civil Rights Restoration Act, arguing that it infringed on individual state rights for churches and business owners. His veto was overridden by Congress. That made Reagan's stances on African American rights and liberties very clear. But Blacks weren't at the forefront of Reagan's agenda initially - recovering the disastrous economy was. However, Blacks would soon play a major role in reshaping the economy, after Reagan initiated a few of his conservative policies.
Due to the dominance of hip culture in America, and it's commercial success, several doors would open for other Black artists to express themselves in the entertainment industry. For hip hop, there would be a wide variety of artists who differed from the early images associated with rap artists (predominately East Coast rappers who wore adidas, kangol hats, big gold chains) that would have an opportunity to share their music - and expose what was happening in their cities - with the world.
Jerry Heller, a Jewish music manager from Ohio, had began a close working relationship with Eric Wright - known as Eazy E - after Heller was failing financially from his musical ventures, and wanted to put his remaining dollars into the already commercially successful hip hop industry. Their business partnership would evolve into launching Ruthless Records and spark an empire, turning young Black artists from Compton, CA - Ice Cube, Eazy E, and Dr. Dre - into worldwide megastars. This would be the first time that rappers from impoverished neighborhoods or those classified by the media as "ghetto" would have a massive platform to expose the violence and racism they were enduring. The commercial success of NWA sparked interest in other talent in the West Coast - primarily in Southern California (South Central Los Angles, Long Beach) and Northern California (Oakland, Berkeley) - which showcased even more variations of hip hop. Digital Underground would bring a lighter, fun form of hip-hop, that veered away from the heavy-in-nature lyrics that was popular amongst Blacks, and focused on more upbeat content. While Kid 'n Play were bringing the party to Blacks in the East Coast with their similar upbeat rap songs, Digital Underground was keeping it going in the West Coast. The variations of hip hop music made it easy for African Americans to identify with it. There were Black artists who lyrically accommodated with almost everything going on in Black communities - there were raps about dancing, murder, women, police brutality, drugs, sex, partying, violence, love, rivalry, money, racism, and more. With so many topics being covered in hip hop, and so many similarities between peoples that were once undiscovered, a new community grew, reviving them.
Outside of music and music television, Blacks would have the opportunity to bring their stories to the big screen. Spike Lee would change American cinema forever, when he released "She's Gotta Have It" in 1985 - a low budget film with a $175,000 budget, shot in 12 days, and grossed $7,000,000 at the box office. Lee would feature predominately Blacks and Latinos (most Puerto Ricans), from Urban communities of New York, offering roles to highly-trained Black actors along some that had no experience. Most of Lee's films would center around issues that were prevelent for Blacks, with focus on racism, sexism, being poor, issues between dark and light skinned Blacks, sex, and violence. His following film, Do the Right Thing, would be his most popular. It's core plot centers around the experiences living in a urban neighborhood in New York, specifically the racism Blacks were facing from Whites. The film was so monumental and ahead of its time, that it was deemed to be "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
To bring more variety to television, Fox would team with brothers Damon and Kenan Ivory Wayans to form a 30 minute sketch comedy show - similar to Laugh In from decades prior - with a predominately Black cast. Unlike the most popular sketch shows at the time - such as Saturday Night Live - who had predominately White cast members, In Living Color debuted on Fox in 1990. The show would portray African Americans in a variety of fashions, sticking to no prior stereotypes, with humored-content themed that was identifiable in urban neigbhorhoods, which was also vastly different from the image mainstream America was attempting to typecast Blacks. The show would feature parodies of Black issues - mostly around race relations - would exaggerate Black stereotypes for humor, mocked and ridiculed popular-but-unpopular artists, and more. In Living Color would serve as the gateway for several future popular Black entertainers like David Allen Greer, Jamie Foxx, and the Wayans Family. It would additionally launch the careers for others included in the multi-ethnic cast including Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez, Rosie Perez, and Carrie Ann Inaba.
The Arsenio Hall Show would be the most important Black entertainment television show of this period. Arsenio Hall, who had risen to fame in the 1980s alongside his friend Eddie Murphy in successful blockbuster films, had made an impressionable appearance on the Late Show following the departure of Joan Rivers, and was given his own show to compete in the late night circuit - which had historically been dominated by White commentators. The show would open with the audience chanting "woof woof woof" while pumping their firsts in a circular motion, which became a culture phenomenon. The Arsenio Hall Show would be the most-watched late night program in the African American community in the early 1990s, attracting Blacks for its honest-nature in addressing real-world issues, and for including guests that were in demand but not invited as guests on White late-night programs. Arsenio Hall was also skillful in balancing heavy issues with comedy and off-centered topics that were relevant to the interviewee. Most notably, then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton was a guest on the show, and played "Heartbreak Hotel" on the saxophone, subsequently following an interview. Clinton's appearance on the Arensio Hall Show is often considered one of the most important moments in his political career, gaining overnight support from Blacks because of his seemingly identifiable attitude. Clinton would build his popularity amongst minority and young voters through the show, helping him secure the election, becoming President in 1992.
Suddenly a shift in Black apparel was sweeping the young African American community - many Blacks started dressing in traditional African clothing int he late 1980s into the early 1990s. Hip hop icons like De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, and a Tribe Called Quest, all who were part of the Zulu Nation, started wearing African medallions, beads, locks, dashiki prints, separating themselves and their styles from the stereotype of hip hop dress, which most consisted of sneakers, t-shirts, hats, and gold. The Zulu Nation would influence Blacks across the country to take interest in their African roots, rid themselves of spending money on materialistic goods that were being marketed to them, and love who they were in spite of society's rejection. Blacks would also take a firm stance on their respect at award shows in the United States, where they had been lacking in credibility for their achievements or influence, particularly in music. It would take nearly 10 years after rap music would take popularity, that the Grammy's acknowledged it - the Best Rap Performance category was presented for the first time in 1989. The Grammy's additionally refused to air the presentation of hip-hop related awards on television, and instead announced the winners prior to the telecast. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith - who were the first rappers to ever win a Grammy - decided to boycott the award show. They would influence all of the top rap artists of that time, including Salt-N-Pepa, Kid N' Play, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slick Rick, and Def Jam CEO Russell Simmons to boycott as well. The hip-hop segment of the Grammys would still unfortunately not be telecast until nearly a decade later.
The late 1980s into the early 1990s saw some of the greatest athleticism in sports, that has yet to be matched today. American Football was the number one most-watched sport in the United States, with newcomers like Jerry Rice and Deon Sanders bringing a new level of excitement to the game. But it would be the mysticism and thrill of watching Michael Jordan, that turned basketball into one of the most-watched sports in the world. Although basketball legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Walt Chamberlain had already made enormous improvements in enticing Americans to watch the sport years prior, when Michael Jordan entered the court and started dunking from the free throw line, he had everyone's attention, regardless of race. With the excitement he brought with teammates Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, the Bulls would be the most memorable basketball team of the late 80s and into the 90s. Basketball was reborn in the late 80s with the help of strikingly talented African American athletes who brought new tricks, new attitudes, and consistent heated competition amongst teams. Endorsements for athletes that had never been seen before - except with OJ Simpson - were now being offered left and right to Black athletes. Michael Jordan's Nike empire would be the most enormous residual endorsement-deal ever seen by an athlete. Major League Baseball, which was trailing the NFL as the most-watched sports in the United States was also being led by African Americans athletes. Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Darryl Strawberry, Bo Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Kirby Puckett, were arguably the most popular baseball players of the era, each breaking records during their careers, leaving lasting legacies in baseball history.
DISTURBING THE PEACE
NEW ARTISTIC OUTLETS
Americans were suffering from one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression in 1979, and united in wanting a new leader in 1980. Americans wanted changes to government involvement in their daily lives, and an improvement to the economic crisis, regardless of political party or affiliation. When actor Ronald Reagan became President of the United States, he would bring a set of conservative beliefs and actionable plans that would do just that. Unfortunately, African Americans wouldn't reap much benefit from the Reagan Presidency - it would actually setback the progress Blacks had made in civil rights years prior, damage their presence in the workforce, the economy, and socially, for years to come.
Blacks would face some of their hardest challenges as a general society during the Reagan era, including the introduction and rapid expansion of crack cocaine in urban Black neighborhoods, the overnight appearance and growth of HIV/AIDS, high unemployment, and poverty. But with the oppression and circumstances, African Americans would take part in creating one of the most lasting movements to express themselves: hip hop. But violent attacks against African Americans continued and progressed into the 1990s, from police officers and the general pubic, under a new President, causing more repression. As Black liberties improved in the 1990s, sabotages outweighed their gains, just as experienced in previous decades, keeping them stagnant in advancement.