“Dark-skinned and plus size”

If you are watching the trial of Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, you’ll probably get that the title above refers to Rachel Jeantel, with whom Martin was talking on the phone shortly before he was killed. It is from the Salon article linked to below.

I have seen her mostly on CNN, but I see many other members of the press to pick up the same theme: She is so different from white people, how can anyone side with her and her narrative? Well, at least there’s some recognition of the fact that racism is alive and well, but couldn’t they register that this is not a good thing?

Some commenters said she should have been trained to give testimony. I think that’s very close to saying that in court you have to sound like whites to be believable. On CNN Mark Garegos has been insisting that our court system is deeply affected by race. That certainly seems what most commenters believe. And there’s a lot of evidence in this trial – not to mention many others – that should frighten any supporter of a person of colour in a trial.

Back to the Salon article: Brittany Cooper tells us in Salon.com:

The thing about grammars, though, is that they rely on language, on a way of speaking and communicating, to give them power. And Rachel Jeantel has her own particular, idiosyncratic black girl idiom, a mashup of her Haitian and Dominican working-class background, her U.S. Southern upbringing, and the three languages – Hatian Kreyol (or Creole), Spanish and English — that she speaks.

The unique quality of her black vernacular speaking style became hypervisible against the backdrop of powerful white men fluently deploying corporate, proper English in ways that she could not do.  The way they spoke to her was designed not only to discredit her, but to condescend to and humiliate her. She acknowledged this show of white male power by repeatedly punctuating her responses with a curt but loaded, “Yes, Sir.”

Even more, she seemed very good at picking up on assumptions a question was carrying. “That’s real retarded, sir” was her (unfortunately abelist)comment on one.

If you look for her on youtube, avoid the comments unless you are feeling strong. I saw ones i’m hoping to forget.

Disrespecting one of zimmerman’s lawyers:

5 thoughts on ““Dark-skinned and plus size”

  1. The comments on an article in The Atlantic – while generally about as bad as you’d expect internet comments to be – contained a few Twitter screen shots that really said it all: Jeantel is, more than anything else, brave. To some extent, her testimony and these public comments are going to follow her for the rest of her life, and she knew perfectly well that would be the case. But she still went forward and testified in court, where she knew perfectly well that a predominantly white audience would vilify her. Again, that’s pretty brave.

  2. Black women and even black girls can hardly win for losing in this racist, sexist society. Trudy at “Gradient Lair” writes in-depth on black women/girls and the non-stop bullsh*t they have to put up with. They can never just be themselves when in public. Everybody and his dog feels entitled to judge them.

    Aside from issues of race, Travon Martin appears to have been stalked, by a man with a gun. So what if Martin did “stand his ground” with a sidewalk? Zimmerman was clearly paranoid, confrontational, and itching for a fight. No one should have to prove anything about race to have George sent to prison.

  3. This clip is the only clip I’ve seen of Miss Jeantel, and to me she seems perfectly normal. I’m not understanding the huge fuss about her.

  4. Black lawyer here. Her responses are inappropriate and not helpful. There is a way one acts in court no matter who one is. Thinly veiled contempt is not the way. It’s perfectly acceptable to prepare a client on how to conduct herself, which includes giving civil, clear responses and not volunteering information. That’s how to talk like a witness, not like a white person. The other side frequently will try to condescend or insult the witness. Unfortunately, it’s part of the process. You train the client not to go for the bait even if she is justifiably angry. The prosecution may have tried to work with her, but in view of her inability to read (shocking) and attitude, they may not have had much to work with.

  5. She’s VERY composed for a 19 y/o…she’s just a KID who could have never prepared for this! So easy to say you would be more composed, in hindsight, from a different culture.

    Per usual we see the public witch hunt including the shaming of her twitter account. The internet brought everyone’s business to the public…I can’t understand why our collective reaction to that was to think we needed more punishment/shame and self-hatred instead of more compassion (for our own sake, even.) Her worst critic would be EXACTLY the same person she is if they had her life, yet they think they can understand her life, or my life, or anyone else’s just because they read some tweets she deleted and saw 40 minutes of testimony or worse, analysis of testimony.

    The whole situation just reflects how terrified everyone’s becoming of each other. Whether it is the scary blacks coming to invade your home, or the millions who call you the most vile things (did not type bc of triggers), or the people coming to shame you, or the millions who say that your experiences or racism didn’t matter…you cannot spend more than 10 minutes around the media without feeling like someone’s coming to destroy you. Terrifying!

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