|Rachel Jeantel, the |
prosecution’s star witness
in the murder case of
sparked a torrent of
commentary from both
whites and blacks,
much of it negative.
Will criticism of her
demeanor override her
Christian Science Monitor
Nineteen-year-old Rachel Jeantel holds some of the most critical information about the Trayvon Martin murder case. Yet her delivery on the stand in Seminole County this week drew widespread criticism.
She was hard to understand, mumbled, acted impertinent, annoyed, rude, and came across, as one cable TV news host said, as a “train wreck.”
While some have rushed to defend Jeantel’s multi-lingual background, others leaned hard into her personally, letting fly on social media a swirl of epithets that roughly amounted to dismissal of her as “ghetto trash,” as one commenter said. That reaction has steered the trial into a new phase, reflecting, some commentators argue, more on America’s privileged classes, including blacks, than Jeantel’s trustworthiness as a star witness.
Reaction to Rachel Jeantel on the stand “has been in terms of aesthetics, of disregarding a witness on the basis of how she talks, how good she is at reading and writing,” says George Ciccariello-Maher, a history and politics professor at Drexel University, in Philadelphia. “These are subtle things that echo literacy testing at the polls, echo the question of whether black Americans can testify against white people, of being always suspect in their testimony. It’s the same old dynamics emerging in a very different guise.”
Read the full article here.
This article strikes me because it illustrates exactly what I want to save some of my more hard core students from. Rachel Jeantel is not a unique case------there are many people like her who cannot relate important information, cannot be taken seriously, cannot communicate effectively at all with people they often find themselves needing to communicate with. The fact that they cannot read, cannot write and cannot speak at anywhere near effective levels to participate in the parts of American culture that will help them emerge from poverty is a tragedy, but one from which lots of people are trying to help them dig out. The article implies this is about privilege----that she does not communicate the way the privileged classes do. True enough, but I work at a place which funnels government money by the bucket loads to try to get people like Rachel the skills they need to succeed.
This article gets me fired up to help more people escape, but I am also very sad because so many of them just squander their opportunity, choosing to argue with our attempts to help them improve their communication skills, and to spend their energy fighting the very people who are trying to help them.