As Rachel Jeantel took the stand, and began to be questioned by the defense, social media buzzed with furious tweets and postings concerning Ms. Jeantel's demeanor, mannerisms, and speech. Lost in the majority of the social media commentaries was understanding, compassion, and a connection. It begged of me to ask the question: Who's on trial—George Zimmerman or Rachel Jeantel?
Many commentaries were unkind to Ms. Jeantel; many disrespectful and ignorant. At some point, I wondered how many of the commentators have lived the life that Ms. Jeantel has? How many understand who she is, her background, her community, her struggles, her family dynamics?
Most live their lives in bubbles without ever extending themselves any further than their own socioeconomic environment in which they were born. Many have not the experience, nor the desire to learn about the life of others that are not apart of their immediate circle of family and community.
More disheartening were posts by many from Rachel Jeantel's own black community. Must we tear one another down, and spew so much hatred for our own? Once again dividing ourselves based upon the cosmetics of a situation, whether than the substance of what is actually going on. Demeaning ourselves to cruel commentaries that had nothing to do with the reason for Ms. Jeantel taking the stand to begin with.
Forgotten by most was the fact that this young lady lost her friend, and was being peppered with questions concerning the night his life was taken. Thereby, bringing back to the forefront not only the events of that horrific night; but the emotions, pain, and acknowledgment that she was the last person that Trayvon Martin spoke with before his life was taken. The last person who loved him, to hear his voice.
Was it necessary to bring up her education? Was is it necessary to expound upon her inability to read in cursive? Was it necessary to show her nails and commentate on her clothing? Was is it necessary to comment on her speech and quiet mumblings? That may all very well depend upon who you ask, and where you come from.
When I look at the jury of six women—none of whom are Black—would they understand? Would they be able to hear Rachel Jeantel's testimony with comprehension? Are these six women in a knowledgeable place to see the consistency in Ms. Jeantel's testimony, and that she waivered not? Are they able to understand the way in which she communicates, yet stands firm in what she says? Or, are their minds peppered with mental commentaries that are reflective of those in social media? Only time will tell.
Here's What I Know For Sure
The effect of our life choices can be seen in our every day relationships and interactions with others. We have an opportunity to make changes for the better, to make our voices heard, to stand up for what is just, and to do better than we did yesterday.
These invisible ties connecting all of our lives together can change the course of another's life. There is much more to life than just our small circle. When we do not expand ourselves, and seek to know more than what we were born into or what we hear and see by second hand accounts, it limits our reach and our growth as individuals and as communities.
The pendulum swings both ways. Whether you were born into poverty, wealth, or middle class, there is something to learn and to gain by understanding the ways and lives of others that reside out side of your comfortable circle.
We remain worlds apart; especially when we take the stance that we are better than others. That, we are above another class or race. We continue to cripple the world in which we live, because we do not understand, or care to understand.
Perhaps if George Zimmerman lived his life with this belief, Trayvon Martin would be alive and with his family, and we might not have ever heard of either of them, or Rachel Jeantel. Sadly, this is not the case. And there is a trial. And there is a family continuing to grieve and mourn the murder of their child; having to relive that night through the testimonies, and to see graphic photos of their seventeen year old son's lifeless body.
It is not Rachel Jeantel on trial; George Zimmerman is. He made a choice one night based upon his biased perception of seventeen year old, Trayvon Martin, who was Black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, that didn't seem to fit with his notion of who belonged in his community. His life choices and beliefs had grave impact on not just his life, but countless other lives; especially for the family and friends of Trayvon Martin. We can only pray that justice will be color blind, and do what is right this time.