Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past

By David R. Roediger | Go to book overview

5
“Hertz, Don't It?”
WHITE “COLOR BLINDNESS” AND THE
MARK (ET) INGS OF O. J. SIMPSON
WITH LEOLA JOHNSON

Remove the appearance of sharp racial differences from Othello and the difference in the play is so striking that it makes you wonder how many other stories have been distorted in our imaginations by our historical obsession with race…. [A] fter three hours one still leaves this performance thinking mostly about how clear the plot is and how swift its development if all the baggage of race we tend to bring to it is left at the door.

New York Times reviewer D. J. Bruckner, mis
understanding and praising a 2000 performance
of what he calls a “colorblind” Othello by the
National Asian American Theatre Company

A quarter-century ago, O. J. Simpson told of his strategy for responding to racial taunts. It consisted of a sharp jab to the offender's chest, accompanied by a literal punch line: “Hertz, don't it?” The humor rested on the bitter contrast of Simpson's tremendous success as an athlete who crossed over to become a beloved corporate icon, advertising rental cars among much else, with his continued facing of racial hurts and desiring to strike back against them. (The same Hertz/hurts punning was repeated endlessly on “O. J. jokes” websites during Simpson's later trials.) Simpson surely knew that he briefly stepped out of character in telling the joke. He followed the remark with laughing reassurances that such jabbing was of course unnecessary. Referring to himself in the disturbing third-person manner common to toddlers and Republican presidential hopefuls, he pointed out that “The Juice” so transcended

-68-

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