Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Maxine  Hong Kingston

Maggie  Doldt 

Race and Judgement: The O. J. Simpson Trial

Maxine Hong Kingston: The Construction of Chinese-American Identity

In her books, Woman Warrior, Tripmaster Monkey, The Fifth Book of Peace, and Hawai’i One Summer, Maxine Hong Kingston writes about the problem of mainstream society’s attempts to categorize everyone based on their race and gender. The characters in her books are a combination of real and fictional, all of whom, as Chinese-Americans, share the common experience of feeling like outcasts in American society while also feeling disconnected from their Chinese heritage. This feeling becomes worse for the women in Hong Kingston’s stories because of the strict expectations in Chinese and American society. The presence of family plays an important role in her books as a source of comfort, but also another group from which she feels outcast. In order to communicate her points, Hong Kingston uses a combination of talk stories -- an oral tradition that blends Chinese history and myth -- along with her own experiences to illustrate the difficulty of finding oneself while trying to reconcile her Chinese heritage with the American culture in which she was raised.

Similar to Hong Kingston’s difficulty with prejudice in American culture due to her race, the O.J. Simpson trial centered around the racial tensions between black Americans and the Los Angeles Police Department during the early 1990s. The evidence against Orenthal James Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, was overwhelming. However, the defense team retaliated by emphasizing the brutality of the Los Angeles Police Department against black men in the area. The defense, known as the “Dream Team,” was able to prove that the lead detective on the case, Mark Fuhrman, used excessive force on black individuals throughout his career. Simpson’s lawyers were also able to utilize audio recordings of Fuhrman in which he used racially charged language. Such evidence highlighted the racial bias Fuhrman, as well as other police officers, held during the investigation. In a time of palpable tension between the Los Angeles Police Department and black Americans, the O.J. Simpson trial became a symbol of the corrupt criminal justice system rather than a question of Simpson’s actual innocence. Major Works Consulted: Dershowitz, Alan M. Reasonable Doubts. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Hong Kingston, Maxine. The Fifth Book of Peace. New York: Random, 2003.
---. The Woman Warrior. New York: Random, 1989.
Toobin, Jeffrey. The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. New York: Random, 1996.
Photo Credit: Freeberg, Andy. “Maxine Hong Kingston.” Andy Freeberg Photography.