Thursday, June 27, 2013

Standing Up for Rachel While Wearing Door Knockers

"We all wanted to be Trayvon, but nobody wants to be Rachel."

I said this to my girlfriend while we were talking about the assault on a Rachel Jeantel's appearance, demeanor, and character.  My husband said something similar in a long conversation we had the other night, and it has been on my heart. 

Rachel and her infamous smirk. Picture taken from here.

In case you don't know, Jeantel is a young lady who testified in court about the murder of Trayvon Martin, a murder that has spurred absolute outrage - as it should. Around the time of the murder in early 2012, everyone was wearing hoodies, from kids at school to those in government to take a stand against injustice. Banners, t-shirts, and buttons with the slogan "I am Trayvon." were prevalent. 

Those who want justice for Trayvon Martin want Zimmerman to be found guilty.  The only way he can be found guilty is for the state prosecution to have a solid case and solid witnesses.  Rachel Jeantel is a "star witness" in pundits' opinions, and her testimony was viewed as crucial to the trial. Given this knowledge, you would think that people would be in Jeantel's corner, pulling for her and hoping for the best.  Well, while some were hoping for the best, others were mocking EVERYTHING about her -  her size, her skin color, her accent, and her diction. Things that had nothing to do with seeking justice.  My husband's peer even complained about her earrings being too big. Lord, they'd hate for me to ever take the stand. I'd be giving my testimony rocking big door knocker earrings, like I do on a day-to-day basis.  I love big, chunky, borderline-gaudy jewelry. I'll defend my dissertation in a pair. I plan to be hooded for my Ph.D. in a pair, and I will be a professor in the fall rocking a big distracting pair of Fulani hoops. Who 'gon check me? 

I refuse to post any memes or any of the ugly comments about her. When she's no longer subpoenaed, she'll have access to the internet, and I'd never want this space to be associated with those hurtful things. Some of my colleagues were particularly upset about the lashings they've taken for demeaning her appearance and diction. They deserved it. It was warranted. Was she inarticulate? Yes. Some of her testimony made me cringe. Could the jury be turned off by what people are calling her "sassiness" and "hostility"? Maybe, and if so, they aren't being unbiased.  Does her appearance and lack of articulation make Rachel's testimony less important? No. Hell no.  We were too busy focusing on everything about Rachel that DIDN'T matter with regard to seeking justice for a murdered child. I know that some of the frustration was because folks felt like she was hurting the State's case. Still, what does that have to do with her appearance? 

Am I being preachy? Yes. Am I on my soapbox? Yup. We all get on our soapboxes about things that are important to us, and protecting girls, especially Black girls, just happens to be one of my things. I feel the same way about rap music and misogyny, and that's HARD when you love hip hop as much as I do.  I just can't nod my head to it the same way I could when I was younger. I've talked about this before.   The same disdain folks have for the N-word should be the same disdain we have for making fun of Black girls when they don't meet society's ideals of what is considered beautiful or articulate. The jokes about Rachel struck a chord because she is so young, and positive self-esteem for young women is already hard to build, especially when they don't look like what people think they should look like. She won't always be sequestered, and one day she will look at how news outlets treated her in the media and how we talked about her on social media. 

Rachel is now the face of failing schools in Florida for many. I get the "Schools failed her" comments. She was probably failed at school and maybe at home, too. What I don't get is all of the fat-Black-ugly-Precious-sassy posts and memes. It's dehumanizing. She didn't ask to take the stand in such a high profile case. It was more than obvious that she didn't want to be there. I'm faulting the prosecution for not taking their time and working with her. I'm not ridiculing the people who are making hurtful comments about her.  I'm lamenting the ugly place where those comments come from.  

Thank God for code-switching and a great education. I'm aware that I am where I am because people took the time to work with me and invest in me. I am so tired of self-hating discourse. She's 19, and she still has a lot of life to live and room to better herself. Maybe someone will take her under their wing and mentor her since the world has so much to say about her. Trust, most of us wouldn't be nearly as eloquent as we think we would be if we were in her shoes.

Rachel looks familiar. She looks like girls I've taught. She looks like loved ones. She and I share a similar skin hue. We both have a penchant for big earrings. She looks like the loved ones of those who took to social media to demean her. Hell, she looks like some of the people who were making fun of her. So the next time folks reach for their hoodies, I'll be reaching for my door knockers to not just stand for Trayvon, but also to stand for the young woman who had the grit to take the stand and not take the defense team's bullshit. 

Until next time . . . I'm humming "Bamboo earrings, at least two pair."  



22 comments:

  1. Toya I love your posts...This one though is especially important

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    1. Thank you! I think this is, by far, one of my favorite posts. This is SO close to my heart. Thanks for reading, and be sure to pass it along!

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    2. Great post. I completely understood this girl. I am discusted and tired of the assault on black women and girls.

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    3. I'm sick and tired of the assault, too. I understood her, too.

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  2. I LOVE THIS and I love you! And your door knockers.

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    1. Thanks, boo!!!! 'Bout to put a pair on today ;)

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  3. It is hard to chastise some of our friends who said hurtful things about this young lady. They had to be said. "There but for the grace of God and parents, go I.

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    1. Yes! Nothing but grace and good parenting! Thanks for reading.

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  4. You spoke the truth! Love it

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  5. I truly enjoyed reading this blog post in support of Rachel Jeantel. I too have seen the negative post throughout several social media sites ridiculing her, but rather forgetting the real significance of her testimony. I commend you for this post and pointing out the ridiculous negative viewpoints embedded in our society over appearance. I too rock my door knocker earrings and gaudy jewelry proudly, because my personal fashion style does not define my character, intelligence, or self-worth! Well said girl! ;o)

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  6. Well said! I wish and hope more people will read up and wise up! Our youth is so important and they are the last people we need to tear down. #StandingUpForRachel!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It's our responsibility to stand up for our youth and those who have been disenfranchised. I'm standing up for all the Rachels who need our help, not our judgment.

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  7. That was excellent! I feel it is important that we as black women stand by and up for each other. I definitely share in your opinions stated here...we need to stand up for this young lady. I hope justice will be served because it comes down to facts not appearances.
    Congratulations for receiving your doctorate and thank you for educating our youth!

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  8. She could of been prepped allittle better for court..everyone in there life time was taught right from wrong.. Love your blog...

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    1. Yeah, watching her on the stand, I was wondering what they had done with her before the trial. I'm wondering if she really understood the magnitud of what was happening.

      Then again, I've heard of even the most eloquent falling apart on the stand. Who knows what I would have done if I were in her shoes.

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  9. I feel both side are not for justice for trayvon..there making too many crazy calls in this trial ..

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    1. I'm starting to feel the same way. Thanks for reading.

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  10. I agree. I cringed a few times as well when I heard her speak. But, the longer she was on the stand the more people became more sympathetic towards her. The funny thing is....that while she may not have seemed like the sharpest young lady, she was sharp enough to know when the defense attorney was trying to catch her in a lie. She knew what she said and she wasn't going to let that A**hole (my opinion) get over on her. So at the end of the day I feel she was a good witness for the prosecution. Great post.

    Fluff's friend

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  11. Angela King TaylorJune 30, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    As I read your words and nod in agreement, I'm disheartened that more folk didn't feel the need to protect and stand for Rachel. Its saddening, but common.

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    1. Exactly. The comments/critiques were not coming from a place of love. People were looking for some easy laughs.

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  12. Wow Toya, this is a really good take on this. I never considered this angle of it. While I found her testimony difficult to watch or listen to on the radio, I never knew that she was the target of scorn and ridicule based on what she was wearing, etc.

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  13. My sentiments exactly.
    I made the mistake of scrolling too far down on an article....in the comments, I saw the word "ape"... *tears*

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