A few thoughts on Trayvon Martin‘s friend Rachel Jaentel... The minute that sister took the stand, jokes were flying around twitter about her looks and her weight… People were going in and saying nasty jokes about how Trayvon went out with Precious etc etc…
I’m sure the sista has heard such cruel jokes in real life more than a few times.. I can only imagine what sort defensive postures she’s adopted over the years to rebuff such remarks.. maybe she’s over aggressive, maybe she’s shy and stays low-key, maybe she makes lots of jokes, maybe she drowns herself in drink and drugs..who knows?
Hearing that she wanted to stay hidden and out of the public light had me thinking that was because she didn’t want to get the public ridicule.. It’s the type of mean-spirited ridicule that many had levied on Olympic champ Gabby Douglass when she was competing, one could only imagine what this sister, Rachel would’ve been dealing with if she had made herself public long ago..
On top of this, we still have someone who was a good friend to Trayvon who was the last to talk to him who lost him violently..To my knowledge, there weren’t grief counselors who went to Trayvon’s school and made sure his friends could process this sudden loss..
Like so many of us who come from the community, we are expected to suck it up, not cry and see the violent passing of love ones as some sort of truth about how tough we are and how tough are respective hoods are.. We ain’t supposed to need counseling, therapy or any sort of comforting to help get our mind right..
So we have a 19-year-old girl, who is overweight, dark-skinned who is supposed to ‘have her mind right’ because those who were going in on her supposedly could’ve and would’ve if they were on the stand… Some the harshest judgement directed at Rachel were from so-called professional, academic types, the sophisticated folks who saw Rachel as more of an embarrassment vs someone who was good friend to Trayvon..She even had folks like Lolo Jones, the Olympic athlete who herself was ridiculed, weighing in and adding to the viciousness. She compared Rachel to the character Medea and has made no move to apologize even as she herself as recently as a week ago is still upset and battling with those in the media who said nasty things about her..
Instead of thinking of Trayvon and respecting the fact that this was his friend as overweight and as dark as she is, many were projecting their own insecurities and bias on him and her.. Again this all before she started to speak..
Now lets talk about being on the witness stand..Many who talked crazy and judged crazy have themselves never ever been on a witness stand.. Many have not been a reluctant witness.. I recall being on the stand several years ago for the defense and being questioned for two hours before the cross-examination started.. I was not spoken too or prepared by the lawyers as to what to expect.. I’m a public person, I think I’m fairly articulate.. I have education and I speak as journalist for living, so being before a crowd and answer questions off the cuff is second nature to me..
When you’re on the stand and the job of the lawyer cross-examining you is to discredit you, its one thing to know it in theory and intellectually, it’s a whole other ball game when it’s happening, especially if you never gone through it..I recall when on the stand, the prosecutor asked me a couple of questions and then out of left field he pulled up an article I had written and read a sentence which on its own made me sound crazy and foolish..
He set me up my asking if I wrote the article? I said yes, then he asked me if these were my words.. and read the quote.. I said yes and tried to explain and was immediately cut off.. In a harsher more stern tone of voice that made me feel like I was 6 years old, he repeated the question are these your word? Yes or No..
I tried to explain and was instructed by the judge to answer yeh or nay.. I answered slowly almost like Rachel.. ‘Yes I wrote those words’.. My mind-set was anger and wanting to let everyone know in the courtroom there was a larger context to what I was saying..
The prosecutor upon hearing my ‘Ye’s answer said to the court “this is the type of individual we are expected to believe, someone who thinks like this who will pen these words in an article…”
Next the prosecutor pulled up my MySpace page and read my status update.. All this caught me off guard.. I wasn’t on trial I was a witness for the defense.. and he read my status which was ‘NYPD are dipshits’. Again i was asked yes or no is this whats on my page..
I tried to explain, and was cut off which had me even more heated.. Then the prosecutor said something to the effect that my juvenile ramblings were not very becoming of someone of my stature and profession.. Officers of the law gave their life on 9-11 and are more professional than you..
I wasn’t asked a question, but I responded, very slow and deliberate with major attitude just like Rachel.. ‘I wrote that because the officers who you claim are professional shot Sean Bell 50 times and not one of those so-called professional officers apologized..”
The prosecutor without missing a beat said something to the effect that my ramblings had sullied my profession and he was glad I wasn’t covering a story he was involved in….then he dismissed me.. I started to answer back.. and was stopped by the judge..
With all that I know about media and public speaking experience, degrees etc..and the 20 + years in age I have over 19-year-old Rachel Jaentel, I let my emotions get the better of me.. especially when my words were twisted and ridiculed.. I was only on the stand for cross-examination for 20 minutes, not 5 hours like Rachel.. I wasn’t on TV and there weren’t newspapers around digging into my past or making fun of my looks..Nor was I traumatized because of losing a friend..
I was angry that they took my words out of context and was mad that they saw my MySpace status update and ran with that to try and discredit everything I said earlier during being questioned by the defense..
I share all this to remind folks, what seems easy and no big deal isn’t always the case.. All I had that day was my truth and I left feeling like I was the one on trial.. I’m sure Rachel felt that and whole lot more.. The closest thing I can think of that might make this experience a bit more relatable is when you get pulled over and have to deal with rude arrogant cop who treats like you like crap.. Some are able to bite their tongue and endure the humiliation, others lose patience and wind up arrested or even dead.
I think Rachael told the painful truth..and was made to feel like she was on trial in that court and still on trial in the court of public opinion.. Even the daughter of the defense lawyer was taking instagram pictures calling this sister stupid.. Rachel is seen as everything under the sun, but a good friend of Trayvon Martin who she lost to unwarranted violence..
That’s some food for thought…