During the first week of July, some in America showed their true colors by once again viciously attacking, with malice aforethought, a 19-year-old Black woman, Rachel Jeantel. She was the last person to speak to 17-year-old Trayvon Martin just seconds before he was to die at the hands of George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012.
Ms. Jeantel was born in the nation of Haiti but has been a resident of the United States since age three. But English is not her native tongue. It is her third language. How many languages do her tormentors speak?
Rachel Jeantel is important for two reasons. First, she teaches us about the lessons of respect. Second, she brought credibility and truth to her testimony.
As the State’s witness, Ms. Jeantel was viciously attacked by Don West, the defense attorney, who did everything he could to insult, malign, disrespect, and just literally beat her up verbally. Black and White bloggers chastised her, raising questions ranging from her testimony to her vocabulary, her physical appearance and her race. (Justice may prefer to be blind but sometimes can’t resist sneaking a peek out from under her blindfold.)
I watched on cable stations. Ms. Jeantel is a courageous and accurate witness. Surprisingly, many did not know that Mr. Zimmerman considered himself a martial arts expert — he has taken martial arts classes three times a week for at least two years. He is a “lethal weapon.”
Mr. Zimmerman had been arrested before for assaulting a policeman, and he was under treatment for psychological problems related to anger. So how is it that this 28-year-old wannabe cop who killed this unarmed 17-year-old was still allowed to legally carry a firearm?
Mr. Zimmerman, in his own words in interviews, stated he was on top of Mr. Martin after shooting him. Some say Mr. Martin was on top. Which is it?
The reenactment tape conducted on February 27, 2012 with Mr. Zimmerman and the Sanford, Florida police department was an eye opener. To me, it provided sufficient credence to the statements Ms. Jentel gave under oath.
How she was treated and continues to be maligned should be an eye opener for those in both Black and White America who no longer trust the system (police, prosecutors, the courts). Is it any wonder there is now less confidence in both Black and White America in terms of fairness and respect than was the case 20 or 40 years ago?
Because of the manner in which Ms. Jeantel has been ridiculed and criticized by both Blacks and Whites, I would not be surprised if fewer young Black Americans reach out in the future to become involved by doing the right thing, giving testimony, and, as Ms. Jeantel did in court, being courageous and honest.
It is a sad commentary to reflect on how jury nullification is still the order of the day: no Black members despite the number of Black people in Seminole County. Thus, the jury of six are all women, five White and one Latina, another sign of institutional disrespect for the right of Blacks to be allowed to participate in the jury process.
My sense, given the number of hours I’ve watched this trial, is that there is a 70-30 chance for the acquittal of George Zimmerman with Trayvon Martin’s death ruled just another “no fault tragedy.” I hope, as God is my witness, that I am wrong and it doesn’t become more “business as usual.”
Last week, Thursday through Sunday in North Minneapolis and downtown, groups of young Blacks as large as 250 and as small as 100 fought pitched battles among themselves and with police. Also last week, in North Commons Park, there was another wakeup call as more youth were roaming the streets.
But it’s not just Black youth. In Greensboro, N.C. on July 1,400 teenagers, mostly White, rampaged. Are we are on the abyss of an outbreak of public disorder as in the days of the 1960s, only this time it is high unemployment and under-employment for both the under- and over-educated, both White and Black?
Will White and Black communities reach out to help save their young with education and jobs, or will it take an American version of Tahrir Square, Tiananmen Square, or the streets of Paris and London to get adults in the USA to wake up? No one seems to have a clue or a plan, as eyes close in the naïve hope that they will open to show no clouds of darkness.
A word of simple advice: Nothing is going to happen unless we are prepared to stand up and be counted like Rachel Jentel, who took it upon herself to do the right thing in that courtroom. I say God bless her and God bless the courage she showed in Sanford.
For Ron’s hosted show’s broadcast times, solution papers, archives, and how to order his books, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. (See ”Archive” section for earlier March 28, 2012 column on the shooting of Trayvon Martin.)
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Why not write about the spike in fatal Officer Involved Shootings here in MN since 12/23/12? There are at least 5 suspicious deaths at the hands of MN police in that short time. It looks systemic. It looks like a new era in policing in MN.
I am a 60 year old white woman and I had no difficulty understanding Rachel Jentel. I applaud her bravery in testifyiing in this case. I also understand her reluctance in going to Trayvon’s funeral. I myself lied in 1968 and said I was ill to avoid going to visit a friend that had been grievously wounded in Viet Nam. God Bless her. This will be with her all her life.