I was sitting in my living room when I first read this. My girl was in the kitchen. I told her about the interview. Since she was busy and couldn’t read it herself, she asked me to summarize it for her. I did. When I got to the part about Trayvon being one of the only people Rachel knew who didn’t tease her, my voice cracked a little and my eyes started burning. I stopped reading, thinking I had to sneeze. It didn’t even dawn on me that I was actually crying until a half-second later.
The overriding theme with the dozens of articles about Rachel Jeantel’s court appearance last week was that we cant lose sight of the fact that George Zimmerman is the only one on trial here. While I understand the sentiment, I disagree. Zimmerman isn’t up there by himself. They just got the co-defendant wrong. It’s not Rachel Jeantel or even Trayvon Martin, though. It’s Black America. It’s us.
From day one, this case has exposed all of our intra-racial warts about race, complexion, class, and how each of them intersect. For all of our marching, hoodie-rocking, and “I am Trayvon”-ing, there’s no doubt in my mind that if Trayvon Martin looked more like Chief Keef and didn’t have camera-ready parents, we wouldn’t still be talking about him. We may have not have even talked about him at all.
This was evident when we first encountered Rachel Jeantel. Regardless of how vehemently we circled the wagons after realizing she was being attacked, our first collective reflex when seeing and hearing her was that we wished we didn’t have to see or hear her anymore. She was too big, too “dumb,” and too Black to been seen in public, to have the privilege of speaking in front of White folks, to matter, and we wanted her to go back to wherever people who don’t matter go when they’re busy not mattering.
Apparently, Trayvon didn’t agree.
You know, in the hours since I first read this interview, I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly what triggered those tears. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’d like to think they were about Trayvon and the circumstances surrounding his death. But, the more I think about it, the more I think I’m just embarrassed that while we we're sitting here, wondering, writing, and tweeting about whether Rachel Jeantel should matter, she was up there by herself, devastated over losing one of the only people who knew that she does.