Misunderstood – Rachel Jeantel
Rachel Jeantel, the prosecution’s star witness in the George Zimmerman trial, wrapped up her testimony, after undergoing two days of a grueling cross-examination by Defense Attorney Don West today. I wondered to myself how she would be perceived by the jury based on her physical appearance. I don’t know what they concluded, but she has proven to be a very strong young woman.
I remember someone from CNN being concerned that she may be pushed around by the defense attorney, but I could tell by her demeanor that first day, that she was no slouch. I noticed her attitude, but did not find it alarming or surprising. I understood every word out of her mouth and knew when to decipher certain statements. Her vernacular caused me no confusion. I speak and write English well (maybe not all the time); but when I do not, it’s a conscious effort. Rachel Jeantel is of Haitian descent, and I am an African-American. The advantage (some may view it as a disadvantage) that I have over many in that courtroom is that I grew up in a southern, lower middle class community. I grew up with kids who butchered the english language, and with those who spoke it with ease and fluency. I now realize that experience has given me a gift that many will never have. I have the ability to understand, and empathize with a diverse group of people, all because my family didn’t have the means to move us to the ‘burbs.
Many trial followers–to include news contributors and anonymous online commentators have posted colorful remarks to describe Rachel’s behavior during her testimony. I was not in the least bit embarrassed by her testimony. I have done away with carrying guilt, shame or regret as a result of other people’s behavior. Gone are the days where I wished everyone’s speech was devoid of ebonics, or improper subject-verb agreement. F it. Life’s too short to be anyone other than yourself.
Rachel Jeantel is not at all a stupid girl–the aptitude is there. She speaks 3 languages and she’s not even 20yrs old. She may not speak or read them all perfectly, but that’s her struggle. And people should exercise a little compassion when dealing with things/events they don’t fully understand. We all have our issues; but luckily for most of us, we get to choose who has the spare key to the closet that holds our skeletons.
UPDATE: Rachel Jeantel received her high school diploma on Friday May 30, 2014-fulfilling a promise she’d made to Trayvon. With help from attorney Rod Vereen (the lawyer who represented the Martin family), and the Tom Joyner Foundation, Jeantel began working with tutors, mentors and psychologists to enhance the areas of her life where she had fallen short. Trayvon’s mom Sybrina Fulton attended the ceremony–which for Rachel, was like having Trayvon himself there saying “you did it.” What an awesome ending to this unfortunate tale.