We write to express our dismay and disgust over the chatter on social media demeaning Rachel Jeantel, the witness in the trial of George Zimmerman and friend of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, who took the stand last week. The comments reflect the juvenile and imbecilic attitudes that infest the thinking of many, including African-Americans who are preoccupied with trivial concerns. Judging from some of the hurtful and hateful comments many people are viewing this trial through the prism of reality television and see it as the equivalent of a “Real Basketball Wives” show or some other foolish program.
A young man has been murdered in cold blood and his parents are left to wonder whether their family will at least receive justice for their loss. Ms. Jeantel took the witness stand as a friend of Trayvon and the last person to talk to the young victim before he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. She stood her ground in a very difficult circumstance, under the heat of questioning in a high profile, nationally televised trial. For anyone that thinks it is easy to do what Ms. Jeantel did, we suspect you are either foolishly overconfident or have never had to give account of your observations in a court of law. Few could do what she did at her age so whatever came across as “rough” or not polished is understood in the context of encountering the hostility of a courtroom. This young lady should be applauded for her courage but is instead mocked and ridiculed because some folks are caught up in superficial and meaningless garbage that has little bearing on what matters most – truth.
This young lady is being criticized for her appearance and for her less than perfect command of the English language. Yet, some of the very people that are her critics are probably the same folks who invest considerable time absorbed in the parade of mindless television shows and music videos, and gossip Internet web sites, that contribute to the further degradation of our community. That so much of the criticism leveled at Ms. Jeantel is coming from the African-American community is disheartening and shameful. Too many of us are stuck on stupid with our foot on the accelerator. We claim to want justice for Trayvon Martin but what we really want is a better “show.” The facts and the truth matter little; only the presentation and whether we are being entertained. Truly, we have hit rock bottom.
Worse, many news outlets have joined the Jeantel bashing and are creating the false narrative of damaging testimony for the prosecution. Nothing can be further from the truth. She never strayed from her claim that she heard her friend Trayvon screaming for help over the phone or that Trayvon felt threatened by a stalking George Zimmerman. And that is the simple truth as it has been from the day Trayvon Martin was gunned down. There was no reason for Zimmerman to follow Trayvon and employ Florida’s idiotic “Stand your Ground” law because he was never threatened. Whatever injury George Zimmerman incurred and who was on top during an ensuing struggle has no bearing on the fact that Trayvon Martin posed no threat, had no weapon to defend himself and was murdered in cold blood, fighting for his life.
The focus on Ms. Jeantel demonstrates that we need not only be concerned about the jury but the frame of mind of our people as well. Instead of focusing on the trial of George Zimmerman, some of us have the audacity to put his friend on trial. It is this type of backwardness that is killing our community and making the pursuit of justice an arduous task for victims’ families. Ms. Jeantel stepped up in a big way to give her account while so many of us see wrongdoing and hide, and then through our silence, support a “stop snitching” culture without realizing that our complicity is our death.
We love Rachel Jeantel and want to express our admiration for her courage and commitment to her friend. It is always difficult to lose a friend, but at this age to lose a friend to violence, and hear his life essentially end, is a type of loss that no one should experience. This young woman’s life has been changed forever and we need to respect her and embrace her, rather than tear her down. God help us if we don’t begin to elevate the discourse in our community.