Like a lot of people, I’m following the Trayvon Martin murder case with fascination. One of the people I was most curious about has since taken the stand and everything about her has been put “on blast.” Rachel Jeantel is the now 19-year-old young lady who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night he was murdered.
And after hearing Rachel’s testimony, watching her body language and seeing the absolute state of shock the young woman is in knowing that she was the last person to speak to him as he was killed, someone needs to order her mental health counseling — like yesterday!
I’ve watched a number of the video snippets of her testimony. I was most fascinated, but not surprised, by the reaction to her by Caucasian commentators. The adjectives they used to describe her courtroom demeanor ranged from “combative” to “hostile” to everything in between. What I saw while watching her was a very immature young lady who has been thrust into the public eye. She was put in the spotlight — and into the middle of a highly publicized murder case — giving her notoriety she hadn’t sought. While many others had made names for themselves, she had quietly stayed in the background.
The Trayvon Martin murder trial greatly emphasizes the front-and-center and in-your-face existence of the two Americas. There is white America and then there is black America, polar opposites with very little grey in between.
I think back to a story I heard about years ago. A white teacher in the school sees two black boys arguing.
They are chest-to-chest and face-to-face in a very heated argument. The teacher intervenes and takes them to the principal’s office and accuses them of “fighting.” Every black person involved is immediately taken aback. Why? Because in the context of black America, all they were doing was bluffing. In our minds, if a punch isn’t thrown, it isn’t a fight.
The way black America sees things can be very different from the way white America sees them.
Add in a young woman who has never been made (and her parents are 100 percent at fault in this) to articulate herself formally, it was very easy to see that Rachel was going to have a hard time making people understand her perspective. When Rachel testified that she couldn’t read cursive, I felt like I had been hit in the gut. Her education, or lack thereof, becomes a reflection on all of American society, but especially in the black community where we are steadily losing ground when it comes to education.
If a defense attorney can take a struggling-to-be-understood Rachel Jeantel to task as a witness to a crime, imagine how easy it is for the system to take a person accused of a crime and make them guilty when they cannot verbally communicate complex thoughts and sentences in a courtroom setting.
Yes, it is the defense attorney’s job to do all he can to defend his client. I just hope that the jury, whose job it is to judge this case, can hear the message and not just judge the messenger about what happened that night.