When the Idea of Being Prepared for Court is Controversial
|June 28, 2013||Posted by admin under Musings||
For example, there is no shortage of Black people willing to start defending things like NSA spying and drone strikes anytime someone calls Obama a Muslim, socialist, anti-Christ. Now it’s front and center in the George Zimmerman trial.
On Wednesday, Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel took the stand and quite frankly, she wasn’t prepared. People took to Twitter to fillet her for having trouble speaking and admitting that she wasn’t taking parts of the investigation process seriously. Others took it a step further and ripped her for her weight and even complexion. Of course, there were some white bigots in the mix who were having a field day as well.
While many people came out in support of Jeantel, some took it step further and lauded her with praise for a first day that was at best, rough.
It’s one thing to chastise people for being mean-spirited and vitriolic, but it’s another to delude ourselves and say she was walking in the footsteps of Nat Turner.
Is the bar that low these days?
The idea of being on your game when dealing with a person with a gun and badge or with a robe and gavel is nothing new. It’s right up there with eating food and breathing air in terms of institutionalized behaviors in Black culture (As Chris Rock once put it, “This ain’t Barbershop 2. This is court motherfucker.”)
Almost all Black people, at some point in our lives, will be baptized by the legal system. It’s not fair and it’s not just but it’s a continuing reality of our lives as long as we don’t control the system.
I remember the first time I was pulled over. The cops accused me of robbing a 7/11 because I didn’t want them to search my car and look through a bag with a day-old, barely smoked pipe. I was anxious, nervous and ended up being pulled out of the car, frisked and given a $500 ticket. Due to that learning curve, I figured out how to handle those situations in the future (Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I’m not encouraging people to learn the game so they can get away with illegal activity).
Clearly Jeantel had a learning curve because she performed much better on Day 2. On the first day, it was clear she was nervous and didn’t want to be there. It hurt her testimony and helped the defense lawyer distract people.
Much of the blame for that falls on the shoulders of the prosecution team. As lawyers, it is their job to prep reluctant witnesses for contentious trials. If anything, the crowd tearing apart Jeantel should be looking at the prosecution and wondering why they didn’t tighten their game up.
In many of these “I stand with Rachel” pieces, you’ll see the word “love” used generously. Part of loving our people is being honest.
I’ve never met Jeantel, just as the vast majority of the praise crowd hasn’t, but I can support her as a Black woman in serious trauma and still be honest enough to say her first day of testimony was rough.
Missteps during that first day don’t change the facts.
Zimmerman is no less guilty. He still followed Martin for no reason, shot and killed him. The lawyer cross-examining Jeantel was still the same idiot that started out the trial with a knock-knock joke.
Jeantel is human. Does it really have to be a “you either lover her or hate her” situation? Painting her as either Nat Turner or Madea are both efforts in heat-of-the-moment hyperbole.
This debate occurs every day on everything from reality TV to high schools where Black parents are noticeably absent at AP meetings but pack the stands at football games. Due to the high-profile nature of the trial, Jeantel just happens to be under a massive microscope.
In closing, I’ll leave you with this thought that popped up in my Facebook news feed:
“It could be you on trial defending someone you call a friend next time… I’d make the humble suggestion that you learn how to express yourself before you become an example like these kids have. 1.) Young black men are thugs, hoodlums, and uneducated troublemakers. 2.) Young black women have intolerable attitudes, little to know intellectual value, and are good for nothing but sex… This isn’t a new thought, but the decisions we make day by day can make this obsolete, so don’t be mad at this situation. Prevent the next one by actually being real and teaching kids and those close to value speaking with authority and actually having some dignity… Its no reason that lawyer can’t be eatin’ alive because dude is guilty and its a stacked case. Don’t blame hip hop either because entertainers don’t own media companies that promote ignorance.”