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The Zimmerman Trial, Rachel Jeantel and You

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."


And while this is pretty much expected of Funky Dineva, a comedic reality TV show maven known for trading punchlines and barbs, most others on Twitter joining in the "Precious-like" banter were not. 


"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.

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Reader Comments (16)

Well said.

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFran

Thank you for this! I found it very disturbing that the conversation of this racially-charged murder quickly shifted to how a girl was talking. It's so easy to reduce someone's humanity by making convenient labels like "Precious" and "Ghetto". Geez, can you imagine being up there? I don't think given the circumstances even the most "educated" of us would be our most articulate selves. Danielle, you hit the nail on the head when you said that Rachel Jeantel made us uncomfortable because we don't want the white folks to view us that way.

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNenointhecity

Thank you so much for this article! I hope that those people out there antagonizing this child will read and understand. It's time for those uppity folk to go volunteer at a school.

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSaree Mading

Rachel sat on the stand and rolled her eyes and spoke in a manner that was indeed cringeworthy to all black women. It wasn't her physical appearance that I had a problem with but her demeanor, even for a teenager, was appalling. She gave the impression that she didn't care that a young man got killed, she just didn't want to be bothered. And then asked the judge if she could use her phone now. I cannot defend this.

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandy248

Thank you for opening this discussion, you really made some strong points that needed to be said. People can be negative and cruel, and for no good reason either. So many people feel so embarrassed by her, not even recognizing that someone else is probably looking at us the same way for some other reason. Too much weave. Too much makeup. Too skinny. Too black. Too tall. WHATEVER. Regardless of what they think of Jeantel, she didn't kill anybody. People need to stop talking smack about that young girl and focus on the smooth talking, well dressed, polished MURDERER.

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicole OJ

How many children does this girl have???

June 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarkie

Well said. It's as if she was on trial instead of that POS Zimmerman. I tell you what-Miguel was on point with what he said about us blacks.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAico

Well said. It's as if she was on trial instead of that POS Zimmerman. I tell you what-Miguel was on point with what he said about us blacks.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAico

I think Zimmerman is guilty and I want to see him convicted. With that said, I am sorry to say that in my opinion, Ms. Jeantel was a disaster and did not help the prosecution's case. I barely understood a word she said. She was incoherent, mumbled, and whispered her answers. If I were a jury member, I would have been very frustrated with her. I'm afraid that the jurors will ignore her testimony because she was so incomprehensible, and they probably only understood every third or fourth word she spoke, if even that.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterR.J.

We all belong to God. Miss Jeantel did not kill someone in cold blood. For all the well to do white and black people and well educated, why not give back. People should not judge her because she is who she is. We will not all be what white society expects us to be. I have much love for you Miss Jeantel. Please keep your head up and not let our society kill your spirit. You are so loved.!

A Evans

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentera evans

The day after she testified, I, as a court reporter, was doing a deposition with 23 attorneys.
They did make fun of her. I, of course, didn't say anything. I am the underling in the room and I don't need to make things harder for me than listening to a 65-year-old-white guy that could hardly talk with teeth missing, from Georgia.
They talked about the fact that she couldn't read the cursive letter. I knew she had not written it, which is why she couldn't read. I figuered it out, couldn't they? After all, they have the law degrees.
I knew she was young and had been through something horrible. It's intimidating to be in a courtroom as a witness or in a deposition as a witness, for most people. Think about it. These people can ask you almost anything and they can ask you questions for days if they want. How would you fare? I would not want to do it and I am around it everyday.
The way she acted is not anything that an attorney has not seen before from anybody white or black. They just think she should have been respectful because he was an old white guy, that's all it is.
It was their way of making fun of her, but not directly because I was in the room.

Meanwhle, the witness, who was white, dropped out of school and really could hardly read, from his own lips, cursive or not. Ain't that something? Nobody laughed at him because of that. Double standards drive me crazy.
Any black person that makes fun of her because she does not fit their profile of what they think she should be, needs to get over it. White folks do not view us that way. The ones that do have the same problem as the black people that make fun of Ms. Jeantel, only it's in reverse.
Melanie SK

She was ghetto trash to the bone. Trayvon, in spite of having a successful mom and brother, was also going down that road. She was direspectful to the process, lied under oath, could not explain why she didn't say anything until Crump and co. got a hold of her and, I am speculating here, probably egged on her friend to get in the fight that killed him. "You ain't gonna let that cracka intimdate you boo are ya!?!"

Her very style said a lot about Trayvon: he was aggressive and unfortunately typical and violent black male. The kind white people are afraid of. The kind that get themselves shot when they run into a responsible citizen--or fellow ghetto trash--with a gun.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoach

How many white people are trailerpark to the bone? How man white people have the means to better themselves and don't? Why is there a double standard?
I know when people are lying under oath and when they are telling the truth and when they are exaggerating the truth. I hear it every day. A lot of people are disrespectful to the process. Hell, some attorneys and jusges are disrespectful to the process.

As far as what Travon's road was you don't know. Ice tea and skittles is not a gun. You should not be killed because you are walking down a road minding your own business.
Jeantel didn't say anything because she was probably in shock and scared of the treatment she was going to get from people, that are just like you in attitude, in the justice system.

I think white males his age are more violent, considering all the mass shootings in schools. These boys were upper middle class, too. So there goes your theory out the window.

Zimmerman is nothing but a want-to-be cop. They knew what they were doing when they denied his application. I have seen his kind in court before, arrested for pretending to be a police officer.

As far as your speculating, that is speculation and it is not wroth responding to fantasies about what happened and your views on black boys with hoodies and no weapons in their hands. You probably are scared of everything,
What are you dong trolling black websites, anyway? What's wrong with you?

Melanie SK

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie SK

I don't feel any need to defend white ghetto trash. Most white people don't. We just judge them as trash and leave it at that. You people feel the need to circle the wagons and identify with trash like Trayvon, the Jena Six, etc.

The road he was on was multiple suspensions, friends texting he was "always fighting," looking for a gun, smoking weed all the time, breaking the law, etc. His Twitter account was "No Limit Nigga." That's what he called himself; he was identifying with thug culture and acting the fool.

As for your amateur statistical analysis based on high profile crimes, I suggest you look at the Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled by Eric Holder's Department of Justice. Men commit more crime than women. Young men more than old men. That said, black men commit 7X--that is 700%--more homicide than white men. They are 6% of the population and responsible for about 50% of all homicides, about 80% of other black men.

PS Didn't know your website was "off limits" and it's trolling to come in and explain reality. But so be it. Go back to the PC lamestream media and believe in bullshit if you want.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoach

White people do defend them, so I dont know what you are talking about, I have heard it with my own ears. As far as identify, you call it identify, which is what you do, We call it empathy, something you obviously don't posess.
Some kids do that things at that age, as were the two Jewish boys that were talking that "thug lingo" in the store.

At least blacks are not shooting people in the movies, shooting up classes of grade-school kids. Not to mention, serial killers, bombing buldings, Boston Bombing. Forgot about all that, didn't you?
There are a lot of white people that do not behave. Check out the ID Channel, or are you afraid to.

The bottom line is, he had an Ice tea and Skittles. Ice tea and Skittles are not known to hurt anybody, unless you are a diabetic, You are the one that believes all the bull that they are telling you on the mainstream media, that wants to isinuate that he deserved to be shot because he is black. Who cares about his Twitter account. We all say and do stupid things when we are teenagers, if what they say he had on there is even true, it does not matter.

The fact is, Zimmerman is a coward and attacked a boy becasuse he just wanted to and thought he could get away with it. Zimmerman is a grown man. In a fight against a boy without a gun he would have won anyway. Men are not even full grown physically until they are about 25.
Zimmerman thought he was in some kind of movie and got carried away. He is not a policeman.

As far as your statiscs, people put up numbers and you believe anything.

You are trolling black websites, You are not black . I guess you want to be, that is why you are sticking your nose in our websites. Are you going to get a black snob water bottle like I did, too?
Nobody that is black wants to listen to your opinions because we have already know what you think.
The law is the law. The fact is, you cannot go chasing people down with guns and shoot them dead for no reason. This is not a zombie movie. That only happens in the movies. Zimmerman wlll find out, life is not a movie. The rest of his life will be miserable and it is well deserved.
Melanie S.K.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie SK

Melanie got served. The truth is tough medicine, Yo

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJiggy5
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