We’re only a few weeks into the George Zimmerman trial and already there is moaning and groaning that he’s going to walk. A friend told me today, “That girl totally blew it for the prosecution. She was so poorly prepared and didn’t seem even to be mad about Trayvon being dead. Why didn’t she act like she cared?”
I understand why my friend was turned off by Rachel Jeantel. She was rough around the edges and Even some Black folks found her tough to take. She was sullen, uncooperative, sarcastic and disinterested. She looked like she rather be anywhere else on earth than in that courtroom answering question after question for two days straight.
Jeantel has a reason for the bad attitude. The 19-year-old was on the phone with Martin before Zimmerman killed him. Now she has to come to court and play along with this game of dress-up and legal mumbo-jumbo while the man who murdered her friend is sitting right across from her. It is unlikely Jeantel spent her life learning courtroom decorum from Law and Order reruns. It’s understandable if Jeantel’s huffy demeanor doesn’t play well with those scoring the trial at home, but she is not an actress and this is not a television with a tidy ending in the last 15 minutes. This is real and Jeantel deserves to be cut a little slack. It was her friend that was gunned down and if that’s not a reason to feel frosty about testifying what is?
This exchange between Jeantel and defense attorney Don West makes obvious she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Or a foolish questions either.
West: “Of course, you don’t know if he was telling the truth or not.”
Jeantel: “Why would he need to lie about that, sir?”
West: “Maybe he decided to assault George Zimmerman and he didn’t want you to know about it,”
Jeantel: “That’s real retarded, sir. Trayvon did not know him.”
Blunt? Yes. Politically incorrect? Certainly. Logical? Definitely.
You can feel Jeantel contempt for the proceedings coming off in her in waves. She exhibits utter disdain for the niceties of the law and total disinterest in being deferential to the attorneys.
I loved every minute of The Rachel Jeantel Show. Even the moments where I winced and cringed. This was not a young woman about to play nice with the guy trying to get off the killer of her friend and she wasn’t interested if Middle America liked her. I rather think she would care as much if they didn’t.
Rachel Jeantel is not interested in smiling when she does not want to smile or playing to the cameras. She is not concerned who considers her insolent, rude, or ignorant. She is not an entertainer. She does not care if she infuriates White people who do not understand her or irritates Black people whom are embarrassed by her surly attitude.
America prefers to Blacks sing, dance, play sports and show their teeth to the camera. Angry Black people bothers America and Rachel Jeantel is very angry.
There are more Rachels and Trayvons out there than we are comfortable with. Angry, surly, and easily annoyed Black teenagers whom aren’t impressed by courtrooms, judges, attorneys and television cameras have a remarkable power to intimidate those among us who regard them as bizarre as an alien life form.
George Zimmerman killed Trayvon not because he had done anything wrong, but because he was the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. The one thing Martin could not change was all Zimmerman saw. That’s what racial profiling is. Why are so many so eager to now racial profile Jeantel?
Jeantel and West do not speak the same language. He wants to keep his client out of prison. She wants justice for her dead friend. Is it surprising she’s so hostile and contemptuous of him?
The prosecution could have prepared Jeantel better, but you can’t program people like computers. If you’re Black and embarrassed by Jeantel you were probably embarrassed by Charles Ramsey a few weeks ago and you need to ask yourself why?
Clarence Thomas and his four White friends on the Supreme Court pose a far greater threat to Black folks than Paula Deen‘s N-bombs. Who hurt Black folks more this week? Jeantel’s lack of articulation or Thomas’ deliberate calculation to give racist politicians a green light to reintroduce Jim Crow style voting laws?
Let’s get our priorities straight. On Rachel’s worst day she does less harm to the race than Clarence on his best. Let’s call the shabby treatment of Jeantel for what it is: Reverse Racial Profiling. Respectable Negroes were embarrassed by Charles Ramsey a few weeks ago and now they’re back bellyaching over Rachel Jeantel.
Why don’t we focus on the substance of Ramsey and Jeantel and less about their style or lack of? Not every Black person on television is going to be Cliff and Claire Huxtable.
James Baldwin said, “The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.” Black people need to stop defining themselves by the White world’s definition of what is proper, smart and articulate. We must stop defining ourselves by standards that we had no part in creating and do not accurately depict us. Rachel Jeantel is not Antoine Dodson playing the fool for the camera. This is not World Star Hip Hop. This is real.
West tried to do to Jeantel what the judge would not let be done to Trayvon: niggerize him as a threat and the type of Black teen Whites should be afraid of.
Maybe they should be if there’s no justice for Trayvon.
- Travyon Martin’s Friend Grilled By Defense, Says Calling Zimmerman ‘Creepy-A** Cracker’ Not ‘Racial Comment’ (mediaite.com)
- Rachel Jeantel on Trial (newyorker.com)
- Dark-skinned and plus-sized: The real Rachel Jeantel story – Salon.com (salon.com)