Wednesday, the prosecution in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin presented their star witness -- the last person to speak to Martin before he was killed by George Zimmerman. Her name was Rachel Jeantel. She was 19, she talked low, she was nervous and she was very raw and unpolished in her delivery of her testimony. She had no poker face. She didn't want to be there and she was obviously still hurting over the murder of her friend.
And while some people on Twitter focused on this, some other's spent their time calling her "Precious."
Precious said "No i thought they was pose to call you" #TrayvonMartin— FunkyDineva (@FunkyDineva) June 26, 2013
Precious is giving to the prosecution. 'you can go" #TravonMartin— FunkyDineva (@FunkyDineva) June 26, 2013
Rachel Jeantel is possibly the dumbest human being I've ever seen. Surprised she didn't have to write her name down on her hand #GZTrial— DJ (@d_mona) June 27, 2013
"Precious," as you may recall is the main character from the film based on the book "Push." She is a heavyset, poorly educated black girl who has been abused most of her life and feels unloved. Calling Jeantel "Precious" was Twitter's way of saying they were ashamed of the girl who was the key witness for not being thin, polished and conventionally pretty. That because she is not those things, she should be unloved (and preferably invisible).
And it was a way of saying they were ashamed of themselves.
Jeantel made some uncomfortable because she was too much like how some black people are. We all have relatives or have known someone like this or perhaps have even been Rachel Jeantel ourselves. And the self-loathing that is instilled in most of us to dislike ourselves -- especially those who are darker and heavyset and remind us of the stereotypes we are running from -- is real and it was on display in real time on Twitter. It wasn't surprising, but it was disappointing that those commenting, often with spelling errors and poor grammar of their own, were allowing their fear of "the white folks are going to think we're all like this" cloud the fact that Jeantel was simply being herself.
Jeantel didn't purposefully set out to not be a model black teen. She's a human being with flaws, flaws that make some people uncomfortable, but rather than deal with WHY they feel so strongly about her low talking and thick accent and her appearance, they took it out on her. Murders don't happen with perfect victims and perfect witnesses, they happen in the real world with real, everyday people.
Jeantel is one of those people. Trayvon Martin was one of those people. So are Trayvon's parents. These are not actors in a Lifetime film about the killing of Trayvon Martin. These are the ordinary people thrown into extraordinary events, placed on a national stage they never knew they'd be on and had not spent their lives preparing for. They were forced into this spotlight when George Zimmerman shot their friend and son.
They did not choose it, so don't treat them like they did.