Rachel Jeantel was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin before he was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. She was on the phone with him as Zimmerman followed him from a corner store, where he’d just bought Skittles and an iced tea. She heard his complaints that he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker”, she heard him asking someone in the background why that person was following him, and she heard the struggle that ensued as the two engaged in a physical fight that left Zimmerman bloodied and 17-year old Martin dead from a gunshot wound. Now, she’s the star of the trial, and the media and those following the coverage can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.
Jeantel has been called “dumb” this week after taking the stand and mumbling her slang-ridden answers; she’s been called “brave” by people on Twitter who think that an 18-year old girl who heard her friend die over the phone is courageous for standing her ground to intimidating lawyers in what is one of the most sensational, emotionally charged trials of the past two decades. It seems that the perception of Jeantel and her answers–which are both brutally honest and not honest enough–is extremely divided.
Jeantel initially lied about her age, because she didn’t want to get involved in the controversial case and, as a minor, she wouldn’t have been made to take the stand. She also lied about the reason for not going to Martin’s funeral–saying she was in the hospital–because she thought she couldn’t handle it.
“You got to understand, you the last person to talk to the person and he died on the phone after you talked to him — you got to understand what I’m trying to tell you,” said Jeantel. “I’m the last person, you don’t know how it felt. You think I really want to go see the body after I just talked to him?” Jeantel said during her testimony.
But those lies aren’t sitting well with some, and Zimmerman’s defense is ecstatic. They’re also happy about the “cracker” quote, and have been using her words as an example of racism on Martin’s part to gain strength for their case. 18-year old Jeantel, who has been visibly irritated with the questioning and is literally rolling her eyes at the defense attorneys, is a huge catalyst in this trial; what she says could mean the difference between freedom and a life sentence, between justice for Trayvon and a lifetime of grief for his family. But what some call “uneducated” ways may just be her youth shining through. Many on Twitter have been asking which of us would have done better at that age when on the stand during a highly-publicized murder trial?
But it goes deeper than age, according to Global Grind’s Rachel Samara. Samara wrote an essay about the trial and says that Jeantel’s race and background also play a huge part in how well she does on the stand.
“A predominantly white jury is not going to like Rachel Jeantel. Let’s just be real here,” she wrote. “They won’t understand her, especially not her defensive nature, and this will unfortunately work against her. Even though it shouldn’t.”
Only time will tell how the trial plays out, but for now, Jeantel is getting a lot of attention whether she wants it or not. Twitter is jumping with support and criticism of the girl:
— Mark Anthony Neal (@NewBlackMan) June 28, 2013
— For Harriet (@ForHarriet) June 28, 2013
Rachel Jeantel please do better today. This is important http://t.co/Z9ltWUwLGE
— JamesDeanOnTheLow (@RobynIsMyGal) June 27, 2013
Don't judge Rachel Jeantel for not knowing how to fake the corporate jazz hands. She is emotionally young. She is… http://t.co/HJ5A8cyjNW
— Michelle Bond (@1CoffeeBreak) June 27, 2013
Rachel Jeantel is not an actress and this is not a Lifetime movie. The yng woman was rightfully angry + upset about the death of her friend.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) June 27, 2013
— Liz Burr (@calinative) June 27, 2013
Rachel Jeantel found guilty of murdering the English language #ZimmermanTrial
— DeMarko Gage 🙂 (@DeMarko_Gage) June 26, 2013