The apologist pieces like those below are beginning to flow. All stops are being pulled to craft and shape the public's opinion toward the clearly biased version of George Zimmerman's guilt by the media.
If ever I thought myself objective and unbiased, the George Zimmerman trial is definitely not that moment.
So let's cut to the chase. Any attorney, jury member, judge or white person in that courtroom is not going to understand Rachel Jeantel. And I don't expect them to.
In fact, I certainly, like my fellow writer Rachel Samara, understand why white people wouldn't like Rachel.
She's hard. She's black. And your assumptions about her background and lack of education make you feel like you are better, somehow. That her testimony, no matter how powerful and impactful it may be to this trial, is implausible. Weak, maybe? Let's impeach her.
But maybe the reason white people don't understand Rachel Jeantel has something more to do with white privilege then, what they would call, Rachel's capricious nature.
Let's for one second try to understand why Rachel is "angry" (read emotional), "hood" (read blunt), and "unintelligent" (read multilingual).
The thing is, what white people see in Rachel has little to do about her own issues, and more to say about the America that white people are blind to. Let's take her testimony on not calling the police, for example.
Rachel told defense attorney Don West that she didn't call the police after she heard the scuffle between Trayvon Martin and the man that was following him for numerous reasons. First, she believed that he was right near his "daddy's house," and that Tracy would help him. She also was under the impression that, if it were a life or death situation, someone would certainly come to his aid. But as West continued his questioning, riddled with nuances to throw Rachel off track, the glaring subtext of this all became clear.
Don West doesn't understand why Rachel didn't call the police when she heard a struggle. Rachel, who is a black woman, doesn't call the police. Why? Black people and police officers don't mix.
The tottering seesaw between black people and law enforcement leaves us in a position where we are afraid to call the cops because we're not exactly sure they are on our side. And in an age where police responding to calls for help will still result in an innocent black person's incarceration or death, it's difficult to know who to trust or turn to during times of need.
Distrust in police stems from decades of being disenfranchised and treated unfairly by those who were supposed to protect us. And yes, I'm taking it there...distrust in white people. Government. LAPD. NYPD. Most recently, the White Plains police department in Westchester County, NY who murdered an innocent black man named Kenneth Chamberlain when his Life Aid medical necklace was inadvertently triggered and they were summoned to his home. And just last week, the police officer in Detroit, Michigan who shot and killed 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was set free after a mistrial. Not to mention the killers of Amadou Diallo or the torturers of Abner Louiama.
The point is, black people can understand Rachel's hesitancy when it came to contacting the police because the fear and doubt that comes with dealing with law enforcement is as entwined into the tapestry of our culture as is our slavery past.
It's not that Rachel can't be trusted. In fact, her testimony has remained solid and consistent throughout her nearly seven hours of questioning.
But, the initial fear of not knowing what would happen is something that black people can understand. And overlook. Which is something that someone with white privilege wouldn't exactly grasp.
But what's more are the cultural differences between white and black people.
When asked why she omitted the words "creepy ass cracker" and "nigga" when speaking in front of Sybrina Fulton about her son's last moments, she simply told the court that she didn't want to disrespect her.
As West looked at her in utter disbelief, Rachel looked back, unwavering. How could he not understand that she couldn't bring herself to upset someone who had just lost a child? Better yet, curse in front of adults.
Note: Disrespect to elders in the black and especially Caribbean communities is almost as bad as cursing the Lord.
And speaking of that word "nigga," the court might not understand Trayvon and Rachel's casual use of the word because of how often, no matter how controversial, it is used in our communities.
So aside from the argument that we took the power out of a degrading word and made it into a term of endearment, it's used so much that it's become a substitute for identifiers such as "that guy," or "him," etc.
And for Don West to argue that the use of the word "nigga" was racial for Trayvon is incomprehensible, especially because he used it on a person who was not of African descent.
For Rachel, these little cultural differences get lost in translation. And instead of trying to understand her, people are reducing the miscommunication to semantics, what they call her broken "Kings English," and her anger. Without even realizing that she comes from a home where Creole is her first language, or that her friend was killed just seconds after he last spoke to her. Wouldn't you be frustrated in front of a court that refuses to understand you?
But most importantly, if there is anything that black people can understand that those judging her are not, it's the loss of life without justice.
And as Rachel Jeantel sits on the stand, nervous, mumbling and annoyed, it's not that she's just a "hoodrat with no media training from a hostile environment."
It's just that your world and our world are...excuse the cliche...worlds apart.
And that, my friends, was never Rachel Jeantel's fault.
Rachel Jeantel is a 19-year-old Florida woman. On Facebook and Twitter, she’s been known to post photos of her nails and talk about drinking. She is also the last person to have spoken with Trayvon Martin before George Zimmerman shot him to death last year, the woman who was on the phone with him when his fateful encounter unfolded. She is known in the justice system as Witness #8 in Zimmerman’s trial. She is, in fact, the prosecution’s key witness. But you’d be forgiven if you’d gotten the impression recently that she was sitting up there to defend herself.
Jeantel does not fit the comfortable image of the grieving girl. As Rachel Samara wrote Wednesday in Global Grind, “A predominantly white jury is not going to like Rachel Jeantel,” a girl “who has no media training and who is fully entrenched in a hostile environment.” There is confusion over whether or not she was Martin’s girlfriend, which eradicates her chances of being depicted as a devastated young quasi-widow. On the stand, she has been blunt, hostile and at times seemingly confused. Online, she has a documented history that includes partying. She is not thin or blond or demure. So there goes her credibility.
This week, the Smoking Gun carefully picked through her social media history, uncovering such bombshells as a recent image of what she described as her “court nails.” She has posted photos of liquor bottles and declared that “wowww I need a drink” and tweeted “party time let get high” [sic]. The Smoking Gun also reports that she’s posted “a sexually suggestive series of photos,” “made references to Martin’s death, referred to acquaintances as ‘bitch’ and ‘nigga,’ and wrote about having ‘jackass lawyers on my ass.’” She has in recent days deleted several dozen of her more damning tweets. And so Smoking Gun commenters have, in their turn, declared that she’s not just a “thug” but “proof the gene pool NEEDS more chlorine!” … “and maybe some arsenic too.” Funnily enough, there’s no mention on the site that on Monday she also posted, “I’m a friend god damn it,” or that she loves Jill Scott and Janet Jackson.
Here is what is true about Jeantel. She has publicly admitted to underage drinking and getting high. She is a poor speller (at least on social media). Her way with words is not calculated to win favor – she has testified that Martin told her “a creepy-ass cracker” was following him. She has responded to the defense’s line of questioning with an icy “You got it?” and “That’s retarded, sir.” The Daily News describes her diction as “often difficult-to-understand” and says it’s “cringe-worthy” and “humiliating” that she couldn’t read a letter out loud on the stand because she says, “I don’t read cursive.” Jeantel has also admitted to law enforcement that she lied about her initial claim that she didn’t attend Martin’s funeral because she was hospitalized at the time; she now says that she felt too “guilty” to face his parents and “didn’t want to see the body.” She admits that at the beginning of the investigation, she said she was under 18, because she didn’t want to get involved. She is unpolished and emotional.
So is she a reliable witness? That’s yet to be determined. And watching her struggling to articulate “the sound of wet grass” to the jury, you can see not just her frustration but defense lawyer Don West’s undisguised exasperation. But when outlets like MSN gleefully seize upon the fact that she’s posting photographs of her nails, they invite exactly the kind of troubling and deeply offensive conclusions about what a “bitch,” what “ghetto trash,” what an “ugly ho” “buffalo” she is, that they have been racking up ad nauseam.