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Birth of a Nation'hood
Cover of Birth of a Nation'hood
Birth of a Nation'hood
Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case
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Co-edited and introduced by Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Birth of a Nation'hood elucidates as never before the grim miasma of the O.J. Simpson case, which has elicited gargantuan fascination.

As they pertain to the scandal, the issues of race, sex, violence, money, and the media are refracted through twelve powerful essays that have been written especially for this book by distinguished intellectuals—black and white, male and female. Together these keen analyses of a defining American moment cast a chilling gaze on the script and spectacle of the insidious tensions that rend our society, even as they ponder the proper historical, cultural, political, legal, psychological, and linguistic ramifications of the affair.

With contributions by:
Toni Morrison, George Lipsitz, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., with Aderson Bellegarde Francois and Linda Y. Yueh, Nikol G. Alexander and Drucilla Cornell, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Ishmael Reed, Leola Johnson and David Roediger, Andrew Ross, Patricia J. Williams, Ann duCille, Armond White, Claudia Brodsky Lacour
Co-edited and introduced by Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Birth of a Nation'hood elucidates as never before the grim miasma of the O.J. Simpson case, which has elicited gargantuan fascination.

As they pertain to the scandal, the issues of race, sex, violence, money, and the media are refracted through twelve powerful essays that have been written especially for this book by distinguished intellectuals—black and white, male and female. Together these keen analyses of a defining American moment cast a chilling gaze on the script and spectacle of the insidious tensions that rend our society, even as they ponder the proper historical, cultural, political, legal, psychological, and linguistic ramifications of the affair.

With contributions by:
Toni Morrison, George Lipsitz, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., with Aderson Bellegarde Francois and Linda Y. Yueh, Nikol G. Alexander and Drucilla Cornell, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Ishmael Reed, Leola Johnson and David Roediger, Andrew Ross, Patricia J. Williams, Ann duCille, Armond White, Claudia Brodsky Lacour
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  • From the book The Official Story:
    Dead Man Golfing
     
    Introduction by Toni Morrison
     
    We have been deceived. We thought he loved us. Now we know that everything we saw was false. Each purposeful gesture, the welcoming smile, the instant understanding of how we felt and what we needed. Even before we knew what was in our best interests, he seemed to anticipate and execute it right on cue. He gentled us toward our finer instincts; toward the medicine that would cure us; toward the rest we needed. He imitated our language in structure and content. And all with the most charming good nature—joy even. So obvious was his fidelity we had no doubt he would lay down his life for us. It seemed inherent, in his nature, so to speak. It was what he was born for.
     
    It was not so. Not only did he not love us, he loathed and despised us. All the time he was planning to kill us. And if he is let go, he will do it again; kill more of us. Why? Because he is an animal. Cunning, manipulative, subtle, but savage nevertheless. How could we have been so deceived? How could we have let our vigilance become so clouded? Was it the coast—dulcet, permissive, delusional? The weather—a narcotic calm, enervating heat? The long journey to get to where we were? Or was it perhaps our need to be deceived? Desperate to be that effortlessly and deeply loved, had we fashioned and secured our own blindfolds?
     
    Sitting in the courthouse at the trial watching Justice sway her scales; listening to sworn depositions; seeing the witnesses relive their horror, the survivors of the San Dominick could have pondered along those lines over the trial of the Senegalese man who, with a dagger and ferocious single-mindedness, took by murder control of a vessel in order to reverse his fortune, and who, in so doing, disrupted for a little while the routine business of the trade that bought and sold him. That trial took place in 1799 at the close of the eighteenth century, but an end-of-century population of watchers anywhere in the United States (or the world) has had similar thoughts concerning on the shock of deception; the sudden transformation of the unbelievable into belief.
     
    Like the readers of Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” contemporary “readers” of the Simpson case have been encouraged to move from a previous assessment of Mr. Simpson as an affable athlete/spokesperson to a judgment of him as a wild dog. He is clearly, according to mainstream wisdom, the latter. And the wild dog portrait layered over him contains a further incompatibility: cool, cunning, even intelligent malfeasance or raging, mindless, brutal insanity. The language developing around him portrays a thoughtful, meditating murderer capable of slick and icy-cold deliberations and/or a mindless, spontaneous killer—a kind of lucky buffoon. That each cluster of adjectives cancels out the other is of no moment since contradiction, incoherence and emotional disorder “fit” when the subject is black. A single, unarmed black man on the ground surrounded by twelve rioting police can be seen as a major threat to the police. A beaten up, sexually assaulted black girl wakes up in a hospital and is “convicted” or raping and defiling herself. To ask why? how? Is to put a rhetorical question—not a serious one worthy of serious response. Difficult explanations are folded into the general miasma of black incoherence.
     
    In the Simpson case the prosecution put forward a motive (jealous rage) to explain Mr. Simpson’s alleged feral behavior, but with the accumulation of hard...
About the Author-
  • TONI MORRISON is the author of ten novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to A Mercy (2008). She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in New York.

    With contributions by:
    Toni Morrison
    George Lipsitz
    A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., with Aderson Bellegarde Francois and Linda Y. Yueh
    Nikol G. Alexander and Drucilla Cornell
    Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
    Ishmael Reed
    Leola Johnson and David Roediger
    Andrew Ross
    Patricia J. Williams
    Ann duCille
    Armond White
    Claudia Brodsky Lacour
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    June 1, 1996
    Essays by academics on O.J.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Birth of a Nation'hood
Birth of a Nation'hood
Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case
Toni Morrison
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