A predominantly white jury is not going to like Rachel Jeantel. Let's just be real here.
The 19-year-old Miami native is an easy target for obvious, yet shallow reasons. But let's not forget why she's actually on the stand in George Zimmerman's second degree murder trial. Rachel was the last person to speak to a living, breathing Trayvon Martin. The guilt, shame and sorrow she must feel is something most of us will never be able to comprehend. You could hear it in her voice, see it in her jittery body language. She is feeling the wrath of this highly publicized case.
Rachel was thrown head first into this murder story, unwillingly. And although she had repeatedly said she did not want to be a witness, did not even want to believe she was the last person Trayvon spoke to, Rachel took the stand for all the right reasons. She was asked to by the family of her deceased friend and feeling part of the burden for his death, she wanted to help.
Rachel was raw, emotional, aggressive and hostile, and she was unapologetically herself.
And if the 5 white jurors (excluding the 1 Latina) are like most white people I know, they are unfortunately not going to like Rachel. They won't understand her, especially not her defensive nature, and this will unfortunately work against her. Even though it shouldn't.
I can imagine George Zimmerman's defense is just hoping some of those 5 white jurors have some prejudices (as most people do), or hell, are even racist, because if they are, their tactic to make Rachel out to be less intelligent, rather than less credible than she actually is, might actually work.
Less intelligent and more confused.
Less intelligent because of the "language barrier" and more confused because of the lawyers' failure to understand who Rachel is, where she comes from, what kind of life she lives.
It seems the middle-aged white men on both sides of this case are totally unaware of what Rachel's life is like - a 19-year-old high school student of Haitian descent who knows nothing more than the few block radius she has grown up in. The cultural differences here are exponential.
But if the lawyers, and especially the jurors, were really listening, they would see that although she comes off aggressive, Rachel was consistent. Yes, the defense proved she had lied in the past, but she didn't deny it. On the contrary. She was very honest about it, and even led us to sympathize with her reasoning for it - she did not want to see Trayvon's body, she did not want to face Trayvon's mother and she wanted to wipe her hands of the situation because of the emotion and trauma. She was the last person Trayvon spoke to and she wanted everyone to understand what that means. This is in no way easy for her.
Rachel is the prosecution's key witness, but I am going to call her the misunderstood witness. She holds vital information that both the defense and prosecution need, but these middle-aged white men questioning her do not get it. Sadly both the prosecution and the defense [but more so the defense] have an extreme disconnect from her reality, like I said. The constant text messaging between her and Trayvon is normal for two high school kids who may like each other, the nonchalant use of racial slurs like "cracka" and "n*gga" are slang (as Rachel put it) and that doesn't mean it comes from a racist place.
Trayvon was just 17, his life consisted of text messaging, high school, PS3, girls and not much else. He had a lot of growing up to do, a lot of experiences to take in, so much more to learn, but sadly, he will never get a chance to do any of those things.
Rachel on the other hand will get to, but with her immaturity displayed on the stand for the whole world to see, she quickly became a joke. Maybe we were picturing Trayvon's alleged girlfriend to be a bit different, but nevertheless, Rachel still is the last person, aside from George Zimmerman, that Trayvon had any contact with while he was alive on this earth. Rachel's mumbling, hostility and that reference to the show First 48, among other things, threw us for a loophole, but let's remember, she is just a teen. This is what she knows. This is far from a Lifetime movie, this is her life. In the flesh, but still on our TVs.
I cried when she described the feeling of realizing she was the last person Trayvon spoke to, cringed at her blatant honesty, laughed when she spoke back to the attorneys and even had to turn my volume down throughout different phases of her testimony because of sheer discomfort.
Rachel was authentic, nervous and extremely herself. She did, after all, hear her friend, a minor, get killed in cold blood. And her involvement, from what we can tell, became dragged out beyond anything she ever wanted.
Her hostility is making more sense now.
Rachel's collision with Zimmerman's attorney Don West was uncomfortable to watch. They didn't get each other. I even thought at one point they were going to call in some type of translator. Yes, she mumbled, but the amount of times she was asked to repeat herself, speak up and slow down proved that they were indeed speaking different languages. But let's be honest. Rachel Jeantel's attitude is exactly what I would expect from someone from the hood who has no media training and who is fully entrenched in a hostile environment.
There's nothing wrong with it.
A few different times while watching this trial I've gotten caught up in the entertainment of it all, like a movie I don't want to miss the ending to. But this isn't a movie, and although Don West did kick off his opening argument with a "Knock-Knock" joke, it's not meant to be entertainment. And definitely not funny.
This is truly a life and death situation. Rachel was on the phone with Trayvon moments before he got murdered while walking home from a 7-11, back to "his Daddy's house," as Rachel so eloquently put it. Aside from George Zimmerman, Rachel was Trayvon's last communication on this earth.
This is real. Let's not forget that.