Jay-Z Story of O.J. Footnotes Review

The shorty style documentary takes viewers on a ride. Prominent black men explain what life is like in America.

Perspective means everything. In life, we’re nothing but a sum total of the things we’ve been through. Things we experience creates that perspective. Everyone has his or her own perspective of what America is like. Muslims will view our country differently than a college student or the average baby boomer. The aspects of everyday life that they see are drastically different.

The Story of O.J. Footnotes speaks from the black man’s perspective. Jay-Z had several actors and athletes in the room to explain what it’s like to be a black man in America. Each person explained several situations from adolescence that affected their perspective.

Kendrick Lamar spoke about the first time he witnessed a murder in Compton, California. Ironically, that’s not why the situation sticks out from his past time. “I was five,” Kendrick stated, “but I wasn’t worried about the death. My question was why is the officer speaking to my mom like that?” Before he was even on this earth for ten years Kendrick understood how the police responded to black Americans.

Jay-Z explained the line and title of the song. Mr. Carter understands what his celebrity status does for him but he also acknowledges that it will never change the color of his skin. Jay spoke about other polarizing black figures that have reached a certain status.

“As black people, we get to a certain space and we think we separate ourselves from the culture. Where O.J. can get to a space and think ‘I’m not black I’m O.J.’ Where Tiger Woods can get to a space and think I’m above the culture. That same person is safe when they’re performing well. But when you aren’t, they’ll put pictures of you drunk driving and embarrass you.”

This message can be sent to all of the black people that are athletes, entertainers or just overall celebrities. They’ll love you as long as you “act right.” When you’re performing at the level they want, making them money or not causing any problems, you’re good. But look at Colin Kapernick. He felt the need to address social issues and now the entire league has blackballed him!

Another extremely interesting part of this documentary comes from Mahershala Ali. The actor from Moonlight and several other films breaks down the variance of growing up as a black man versus being white.

“The difference between black men and white men is this. We move through the world-playing defense. We are constantly looking for disruption. We’re aware that the world views us a certain way. Without the disruption, you walk through the world thinking of what you can build or create.” –Mahershala Ali

Ali’s whole explanation is nothing but the truth. As black men we are never allowed to let our guard down. There are rarely circumstances in which we aren’t seen as threats or intimidating. My presence alone can put me in danger here in America. It’s almost as if there its’ a crime to exist.

“Fame is the greatest gift God can give a black man.” –Chris Rock

The best way for us to combat this is to focus more on ourselves. It is impossible to change what people think of you. I cannot control your irrational fear or change who I am to make you comfortable. Fighting for acceptance is not something I’m willing to do. I will be who I am regardless of who admires or gives me consent. Your blessing isn’t necessary for me to be great.

One more thing, black men are not a part of this “system” that people seem to believe gives men a pass. We’ve been suffering from the system of America just as long or longer than anyone else. Having a penis won’t change that. The men who run society and have created the system that people hate so much are all the same color and it damn sure isn’t black. I am not attempting to disregard anyone else’s experiences. Just understand that black men don’t start out on some higher level.

Racism will always exist. We have to work past it and create the lives we desire.