Rachel Jeantel, the 18-year old girl who has taken the stand this week in the Trayvon Martin case only to be bashed by numerous people online and interrogated by George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, has just gotten an apology from a Rutgers University student on behalf of the country.
Jeantel has faced harsh criticism not just for her answers on the stand or for not being 100% truthful in the beginning of the investigation–because she was scared to get involved in such a high-profile case–but because of her background, her education level, the way she speaks, and the way she looks. The trial is getting heavy media scrutiny, and everything Jeantel does and says is recorded for the world to see. The backlash against her has inspired Khadijah Costley White to write an apology letter for the way she’s being treated, and it’s one of the most moving things you’ll see all week.
White wrote, in part:
I write this as I watch you testifying, tightening your lips, grinding your teeth in an attempt to be stoic, to not break down while you recount the grisly, too-soon murder of your friend. It was probably the most terrifying moment of your life. I can’t imagine listening, helpless, while my friend was stalked and murdered, panicked and afraid. You told him to run. You thought it would keep him safe. What could’ve been going through your mind that day? Did you worry when the phone was cut off? When Trayvon didn’t call you back or return any of your missed calls?
…I’m so sorry that people are judging you, fixated more on your beautiful brown skin, your carefully applied make-up, your body, your being, than your trauma and your pain. I’m sorry that you were born into a country where a man can pursue and kill a black boy, your friend, and go home the same night with the blessings of law enforcement officers….There are a lot of hateful things being said about you—comparisons to “Precious” (as if Gabourey Sidibe isn’t a real person or, irony of ironies, that Precious wasn’t also a victim of trauma), people making fun of your frankness, your tenacity, your refusal to codeswitch out of your mother-sister-brother tongue.
…I just want you to know: I am so proud of you. In you I see a fierce resistance that reminds me of ancestors past.
Each time you open your mouth, look down, clench your cheeks in a fresh wave of pain, I see Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Lou Hamer joining their spirits and bonding their strength to yours. I see a survivor, a woman who has miraculously kept her mind and nurtured her sanity enough that she can sit, for hours, and recount such horror. You have a brilliance that flares out, only to be quickly veiled by a glance down or a quiet stare. Past your soul-wrenching pain and your child-like bravado, I see hope and possibility, a small green tendril creeping out of a concrete playground. I see YOU.”