Rachel Jeantel, the Zimmerman Trial, & the R-Word

The trial in the case of George Zimmerman has begun. The eyes of society are watching closely already drawing conclusions and verdicts for the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed young black teen male, after a scuffle resulting from a confrontation (on Zimmerman’s part) for ‘looking suspicious’. So far, it’s been nerve-racking and – at times – dismal.

News reports described the as jury consisting of six people, all women, with three or four alternatives. Five out of six jurors are white with one black or hispanic woman. The fact that all jurors are women should not be viewed as a problem. However, the racial makeup is a totally different story.

Then, we have opening statements consisting of jokes and profanity. Prosecutor John Guy quoted Zimmerman on the night of the murder talking to a dispatcher, “Fucking punks…These assholes, they always get away.” ‘They’ (on a scale of most likely to definitely on the color-coded meter) referring to young black men.

The defense attorney Don West was slightly more jovial in his statements when he told a knock-knock joke. “Knock-Knock! Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good. You’re on the jury.” It was supposedly a reference to the jury selection process and a way to brighten things up.

Now, we are into the witness testimony phase of the trial. And one witness has been catching a lot of heat in social networks. Rachel Jeantel, age 19, was the friend of Trayvon Martin who was on the phone with him the night he was murdered. Understandably, her testimony was emotional. She cried during certain points and was visibly nervous, pressured by attorneys and the judge during moments they couldn’t understand her.

Sadly, most people watching the trial with access to the net didn’t waste time to express their disgust with Rachel. On Twitter, many people not only called her a liar with a bad attitude, but sought fit to criticize her appearance as if that pertinent to the case.

SANFORD, FL - JUNE 26:  Witness Rachel Jeantel gives her testimony to the defense during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court
SANFORD, FL – JUNE 26: Witness Rachel Jeantel gives her testimony to the defense during George Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court

The George Zimmerman trial opened the doors to allow the elephant to walk in the room, the elephant I like to call ‘racism’. George Zimmerman is a white hispanic vigilante who murdered Trayvon Martin, a black male, in cold blood. Zimmerman wasn’t arrested until a month after that fateful night. Yet, people are heavily divided as to who is the victim and who is the bad guy. One thing you can not say to some of those people is that race was a factor.

In a society in denial of its own demons like racism, anything other than racism could explain why Zimmerman killed Martin. “Martin was indeed a thug! Look at his school and phone records! He picked a fight with Zimmerman! He should’ve minded his business! Zimmerman was just trying to protect his neighborhood!”

Sometimes the explanations tread lightly on thin ice over the pond of racism. “Black males commit more crime in this country! Most crimes in this country are caused by black males! Look at the statistics! They don’t lie!”

And as always, the reasons are not racist and neither are the people making them. They are always “just facts.”

You can’t say that race was a factor in Trayvon’s murder. You can’t even say that race was involved in the jury selection, at least not without a fist full of denials. Some white people – and white minded people – do not understand why white juries send icy chills down the spines of defendants of color. Some are even too lost to ponder that the lives of victims in court cases depreciate greatly if they come with a heavy case of melanin.

It’s near impossible to explain what is considered racist to some (white) people. Many refuse to listen even though deep down many of them most likely know. Still, acknowledging that race is a factor in any given event is considered dangerous to those who hold all the privileged cards. It invokes the same kind of fear as staring down the barrel of a gun held by a robber. There is a risk something of yours will be taken away.

This is why so many whites in America fear of any hint of racial oppression because they fear of losing their unearned privileges. And sure enough. there are those who fear what could happen when this trial ends.