In defense of Trayvon Martin case witness Rachel Jeantel
OPINION - Jeantel is real, not ready for television. As long as she is telling the truth, her diction, her complexion and her weight should not matter, or eve be discussed...
Some online come to Jeantel’s defense
Struggling Olympian Lolo Jones had jokes too, equating Jeantel to Tyler Perry’s obese, middle-aged “Madea” character, a wise-cracking, gun-toting comical figure who some consider a modern day mammy.
These comments and spoofs of a teen who experienced a deep trauma are just the tip of the iceberg of horrible statements that I don’t want to repeat here.
There was nothing in Jeantel’s testimony that warrants these responses.
Taking umbrage at the attacks on this young witness, some sites such as For Harriet and Role Reboot have posted open letters to Jeantel encouraging her to remain strong and apologizing for the online vitriol that has been spewed at her.
Negative comments say more about commenters
Much commentary on her appearance was an ugly and ignorant display of colorism and fat-shaming, which says less about Jeantel’s character, and much more about the people commenting on her looks.
Her demeanor was blunt and she was clearly frustrated, which should be expected from a 19-year-old, especially one whose best friend was killed. Jeantel was being asked to relive her account of the final moments of her friend’s life in a testimony that holds extraordinary weight in the prosecution of the man accused in the murder of Martin.
This teenaged girl was thrust into the center of a national news story. That’s a lot for a mature adult to handle, much less a rising high school senior.
Plus, people are forgetting: She is a teen. Sure, she gave major side-eye, and called a question from the defense “retarded,” but people forget that Jeantel is still an inexperienced young person, full of the bravado that is common in youths of all colors.
Jeantel: Don’t call her an Angry Black Woman
Jeantel comes off as fiery at times — and some people are proud that she did not crumble under the attempts of Zimmerman’s defense team to discredit her testimony, or question her credibility and character. Yet, in some ways she really is too naïve to respond to serious situations with enough “nerves” to possibly dissemble. Her “strength” might just be the detachment from fear that is a natural part of youth.
For her “attitude,” in my view, Jeantel has been accused of embodying the Angry Black Woman stereotype.
(I have to ask, if ever there was a reason in history for a black woman to be angry, isn’t this it? Next.)
Plus, this young woman is also far from dumb. No, her diction wasn’t always clear. She mumbled some responses and had to be asked to repeat her answers. Yes, she spoke slang and didn’t always adhere to the finer points of the King’s English.
But possessing speaking skills that won’t land her a job as a commentator on the nightly news does not automatically mean Rachel Jeantel is ignorant. In fact, she comes off as very smart if you listen to the details of her statements.
Jeantel intelligently calls out Sanford police
One of the many compelling parts of her testimony occurred when the lawyer for the defense asked the girl why she did not go to the police. When Jeantel referenced the TV show The First 48 as the basis of her understanding of how police procedures work during a homicide investigation, she sounded simple-minded to some.
“Don’t you watch First 48?” she asked Zimmerman’s lawyer, incredulous that he was questioning her judgment in not immediately calling authorities.
“They call the first number that the victim talked to,” she informed the court.
Jeantel went on to explain, “…they didn’t call my number and they’d already got the person, so case closed, I thought.”
And yes, that would be an intelligent procedure for conducting an investigation, if the police who found Trayvon’s body had used it.
Jeantel is real, not ready for television
Wondering why detectives didn’t initially contact the last person Martin spoke to was indeed a smart question. It also calls into question the thoroughness of the homicide investigation conducted by Sanford, Florida police in the town where Trayvon was killed.
And this was just one moment of Jeantel’s acuity in answering questions and deflecting attempts to make her contradict herself. For the fact is, after she clarified when she lied and why, her story remained consistent and seemingly impervious to challenges by the defense.
Jeantel isn’t a “made for TV” witness, nor does she need to be. Coverage of the Zimmerman trial is a top news story, playing out on cable channels and Internet live streams. Fascinating though it may be, this isn’t entertainment — it’s a second degree murder trial.
As a witness, all Jeantel needs to be is honest in her testimony, especially about the final moments of her friend’s life, even if she’s also coming clean about her dishonesty in the past.
As long as Jeantel is telling the truth, her diction, her complexion and her weight should not matter, or even be discussed.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.