My goodness! What a week. It has been a roller coaster of high tumultuous emotions varying from utter depression to sublime elation. Literally. First, the Supreme Court slaps us with the removal of a key part of the Voting Rights Act that leaves voters unprotected if certain states choose to change voter procedures. And then as if to apologize for the abuse they rule DOMA unconstitutional in the state of California. Which is essentially the equivalent of twenty steps backward and one step forward. At least that is how it adds up in my head.
While all of this is happening, the media has been taken over by images of Paula Deen’s tomfoolery and Miley Cyrus’s twerk addictions. Are these the new ‘it’ girls? What is going on with the world??? Do I really care about Paula’s dreams of a plantation style wedding or Miley’s evident obsession with black culture? Not really. I mean, isn’t anyone watching the George Zimmerman Trial (GZT)?
The answer to that question is yes. The world is watching but apparently who is on trial has definitely changed. Instead of focusing on George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, media commentators, experts, and of course a host of beloved social media trolls have turned their attention to the prosecution’s star witness Rachel Jeantel, the last person to speak with Trayvon before his death.
Since her testimony, which concluded on Wednesday, Rachel has been called everything under the great blue sky. A liar. Uneducated. Unsophisticated. Disrespectful. Rachel was called a liar because she lied when she told Trayvon’s parents that she was in the hospital in order to avoid the funeral service. Perhaps she was having a bit of survivor’s guilt or I don’t know experiencing a little something that I would like to call GRIEF. Or maybe she didn’t feel like looking into some glorified box and looking at her friend who is now stone cold dead. Seeing someone you know and love lying motionless in a casket can be one of the most traumatic experiences in one’s life. Therefore who can really blame her? Not I.
Uneducated and unsophisticated. I had no idea that accents, tones, and different speech styles indicated levels of education and sophistication. Or is it just because she was using a vernacular (a fusion of her Haitian, Dominican, and Southern roots) typically attributed to black folk? Because I believe there were other witnesses of color who had varying speech tones and do you see the wolves at their ankles? I don’t think so. Let’s not forget that Miss Jeantel is trilingual, which is, in fact, an indicator of education and a skill that many of us cannot claim.
Rachel was called disrespectful because of the way she responded to the defense attorneys. The same attorneys who have cross-examined for hours and hours. The same attorneys who are trying to prove that her friend, who was killed may I remind you, was the person who instigated the entire situation. SMH. I would be rolling my eyes and getting smart too. TRUST.
And as a result of all of these wonderful characteristics that have been placed on a young girl who is speaking on behalf of her deceased friend, the general consensus is that Ms. Rachel Jeantel is an UNCREDIBLE witness. And once that word was unleashed, a horde trolls appeared to do what they do best. YAP. YAP. YAP. Not only was her accent and speech style a problem but now her appearance was an issue too. Rachel was compared to the character in “Precious” and Lolo Jones even put in her two cents when she compared her to Madea. This is particularly frustrating when not only do you have non-black folks who refuse to legitimate Rachel’s testimony but then some members from the black community want to weigh in and attack Rachel as well. When did we get so side tracked?
Is the conditioning in our brains that deep that even we, black folks, have fallen victim to the socialization process of American culture? Have we arrived at the point that when we see another black person they automatically transform into the malevolent villain? I guess so because what else would explain the mass critique of Miss Jeantel? Can I get that same kind of fervent critique and participation during mid-term elections? Or how about protests against police brutality? Or is this type of verbal mobilization only needed for unwarranted character assassination?
Who knows? But what can be said is that this was just week one of GZT. Even though many witnesses gave their testimonies, what they said appears to be lost in the circus created around Rachel’s respectability and credibility. In addition, what occurred this week especially with the over emphasis on Rachel’s testimony, reminds us all that we, as people living in America, really do have a race issue. And whether we want to admit it or not, racism impacts everyone in this country with some reaping financial and social benefits, while others experience reduced quality of life and lack of access to certain privileges.
What I saw in Rachel was a bravery and authenticity that stood firm against a white male dominated space which attempted to suffocate and stifle not only what she was saying but who she is. The interactions in court were nothing more then a Black girl responding to individual and institutional oppression, which ultimately led to the death of a friend and framed the dynamics in the court.
It will be interesting to see how events continue to unfold. Hopefully, next week we can move away from the attack on Rachel and back to the issue at hand.
What are some of your thoughts on GZT Week #1?