Florida teenager Rachel Jeantel— controversial witness for the prosecution and the last person on the phone with Trayvon Martin just before he was killed—appeared on Piers Morgan Live Monday night, in a segment that followed anonymous juror B37’s obscured sniveling on Anderson Cooper 360, on CNN.
Rachel‘s testimony and disposition on the stand during the George Zimmerman trial prompted a lot of discussion. She brought out people’s nasty (sexist, and colorstruck) Mean Girl fantasies and she gained herself a lot of supporters along the way. And while I’ll concede that the feisty young woman seemed to struggle with her diction and brought an aura of banjee girl realness to the interview (which has actually endeared her to people), I’m not interested in offering any critiques on her learning aptitude or measuring her intellectual capacity– (I believe her to be capable, regardless of what her struggles are). She acknowledged that it was difficult for her to express herself clearly sometimes and hinted of a possible speech impediment due to an underbite (that requires dental surgery), a challenge she says she’s dealt with since kindergarten; nonetheless I was able to grasp much of what she set out to convey. She’s 19-years-old, has been thrust into the spotlight in the midst of a terrible tragedy that took the life of her friend and school peer, but she seemed more relaxed and prepped for Piers Morgan’s queries.
Rachel was candid, she offered some compelling ‘T’, and she shared her story the best way she could. In short, she kept it trill and more importantly, she gave us insight into who Trayvon was and humanized her friend in the face of those still trying to paint a stereotypical narrative about him as a dangerous thug—“Trayvon was a chill person. He loved his family, definitely his mother…”
As journalist Charles Blow opined in the second half of the segment, she was painfully honest in some areas of her interview, a brand of raw authenticity he believed lent to her credibility– (despite juror B37’s claim of not finding her credible or intellectually adequate, on Anderson 360). I did find her dissection of ‘Nigga’ vs. ‘Nigger’ problematic (she said nigga “doesn’t mean a black male” and that it could apply to “any man”), but her explanation is one harbored by many young people of Rachel’s generation and demographic, and it illustrated the generational disparity between older folk and millennials, and how some of us absorb the impact of the ‘N’ word—Rachel referred to the jury as ‘old’, in response to their inability to understand any of the phrases she used during her testimony… such as, “creepy ass cracka”.
Other significant highlights (in no particular order)…
Rachel said that Trayvon was unnerved and “creeped out” by George Zimmerman following him that night, and shed light on the ‘stranger danger’ concept parents teach their children: how it’s only natural for young people to run (as taught) when being followed by an unidentified adult lest they “be on the news as a missing person”.
Rachel says she suspected Zimmerman would be acquitted, but still found herself feeling “angry, hurt, disappointed, and confused” by it. That she felt Zimmerman’s stalking of Trayvon was racially motivated, and she believes he thought, “I’m gon’ get [one] tonight”. She says of her friend: “Trayvon was just trying to get home, and that’s a fact.”
Rachel expressed her disdain for Don West and suggested that, aside from the attitude she gave on the stand, “He’s lucky [my] parents taught me better, you don’t disrespect adults. He’s lucky I’m a Christian.”
She made it clear that her friend was not a thug like people are painting him out to be, divulged that he smoked weed, but that it made Trayvon “go hungry” not “crazy”, as was insinuated. Rachel says she has never witnessed any type of aggression from her friend, and that he was an all-around funny young man who got on well with people in their neighborhood.
And most compelling…
Rachel on the infamous instagram ice cream photo uploaded by Don West’s daughter? “Look at the picture… they’re dumb blondes”, that “blondes are known for saying dumb things” where she’s from, and that she’s unfazed by their mocking.; and as for West’s theatrics? “He gotta get that check… it’s all about that check.”
Rachel said she didn’t attend Trayvon’s funeral, because she was overcome with shock, was shaken by his death, and hadn’t planned on attending a funeral that week.
When asked for her thoughts on George Zimmerman… the man who shot and killed her friend… Rachel said she believes him to be “weak”, “scary”, “hiding behind his father” and, “If [you] were a real man, [you’d] stand on that stand and tell what happened.”