VIEWPOINT- The Verdict is in: Feminists Must Not be Divided

On Oct. 3, the jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. The Simpson trial has, yet again, made us painfully aware of the chasms in our society. With word of the verdict, ugly ripples spread throughout communities across the country. The media painted the grim picture of a nation at war. White against black. Men against women. White women against African-American women.

 In the aftermath of the murders, the trial, the verdict, we find that the judicial system is crippled by sexism and racism. Women have no faith or hope that the system might protect them from their abusive husbands or partners. People of color have no confidence that they might be treated fairly by the system. With so much prejudice and corruption, there can be no justice and no peace.

 Our enemies will try to use the Simpson case to pit us against our allies. We cannot let that happen. We know their tactics. Following the verdict, supporters of an anti-affirmative action initiative in California encouraged people who disagreed with the verdict to sign their petitions and to vote against affirmative action. That sort of race-baiting is not only deplorable -- it is immoral. As feminists, we must stand against it.

 As feminists, we find ourselves angered and saddened. Nobody can deny that, regardless of who killed her, Nicole Brown was battered and abused by O.J. Simpson. The judicial system failed Nicole Brown and continues to fail women who are battered by their current or former boyfriends or husbands. It was the sexism of the police and the courts that condemned Nicole Brown to live her life in fear of her ex-husband. While the prosecution did not prove beyond the jurys reasonable doubt that Simpson murdered Nicole Brown, he admitted that he has abused her. And while the criminal justice system gave him a slap on the wrist for wife-beating and turned their heads, corporate sponsors gave him lucrative contracts, tacitly condoning the violence.

 We know that domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment are all tools the patriarchy uses to keep women oppressed. Any system of inequality must rely, ultimately, on force or the threat of force. Women across the United States hoped that the violence of Nicole Browns life and death might be used to dismantle sexism or at least to make the connections between violence and sexism in society as well as in the judicial system. All of us felt great pain when the issue was overshadowed by the racism that pervades the system as well.

 As feminists, we cannot deny the role that racism played in this case. The Los Angeles Police Departments (LAPD) legacy of racism tainted the evidence in the Simpson case. The bitter poison of Mark Fuhrmans racist, sexist slurs stung all of us. In the wake of the brutal attack on Rodney King, it was easy to acknowledge that racism runs rampant throughout the LAPD and the entire judicial system nationwide.

 All of us must join together to dismantle the sexism and racism which divides us. We must fight the patriarchal system -- not one another. If we were artists painting the Simpson case, our picture would contain all the worst elements of our society: hatred, violence and discrimination. We must come together to paint a different picture for the future.

 In November, NOW will kick-off the Equality Countdown Campaign which is a national project designed to elect feminist candidates while defeating oppressive initiatives and referenda. The bedrock of our ampaign is a call to return to community values: to the politics and policies that favor the needs of people over the profits of corporations and the comfort of a few.

 We will elect candidates who seek to strengthen our country with compassionate responses to the complex problems we face. And we will defeat initiatives like CCRI (Californias anti-affirmative action initiative) which attempt to close the doors of opportunity on women and people of color. The Equality Countdown Campaign will unite feminists across the country and across racial lines in a year-long struggle to wrest power from the enemies of women at the local, state and national levels.

 We know our adversaries have wrapped their conservative agenda of hate in emotional appeals to God and flag or in outright lies. Our Equality Countdown Campaign will reclaim the moral high ground by exposing the conservative agenda for what it really is: an attack on women and our families. Our campaign will educate the public and focus on the integrity of our issues and the realities of our lives. We will not allow our enemies to fractionalize our movement. We are going back to basics and back to the real issues.

 There are important lessons to be learned from the Simpson case. Feminists of all colors must emerge from this trial with the renewed commitment to work together to eradicate racism and sexism and all the "isms" that divide us. It is too late to save Nicole Brown, but there is still time to save our nation. Let us move forward together on the Equality Countdown Campaign.

 The only way our message will be heard is with the help and commitment of every feminist. Dedicate as much of your time as possible to work on this campaign in California or in your own community. With your help and commitment, failure is impossible. With your efforts, we can move beyond the politics of hate to implement the policies of hope.

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