The “Unsophisticated” Mirror of Rachel Jeantel thefeministwire

The Feminist Wire

The “Unsophisticated” Mirror of Rachel Jeantel

July 22, 2013

By 

By Lauren G. Parker

The prosecution needed to represent Rachel Jeantel as much as they represented Trayvon Martin because her assumed unintelligence and subsequent worthlessness were inadvertently assigned to him. Aware of this, prosecution attorney Bernie de la Rionda attempted, but failed, to insist upon her credibility in his closing statements. Before queering a Dr. King quote by saying that she “should not be judged by the color of her personality but by the content of her testimony,” he told the jury that she was “a little unsophisticated” and “uneducated.”Rachel_Jeantel_rtr_img

By insulting her to gain credibility, he complied with the idea that she was insignificant and by default, so was Martin’s life. Such inherently assumed superiority over Jeantel from the prosecution’s closing statement, the defense’s humiliating tactics and venomous commentary from cyber voyeurs was deeply remnant of a passage from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in which Morrison stated:

 All of us—all who knew her—felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us; her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used—to silence our own nightmares. And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt. We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty, and yawned in the fantasy of our strength.

Afraid to embrace those realities, many dwelled on their critiques of Jeantel’s dialect. Here, too, there was a deep politic that neither the talented-tenth, code-switching middle class Black folks who claimed to be ashamed by her nor those who maintained the racist ideology that she was merely another ignorant, fat black woman, could bear to acknowledge. James Baldwin’s 1979 essay, “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me, What is?” best presented this truth where he states,

…language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity.

He further explains,

Language, also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other–and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize [them]. People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.

Just as many have never considered that Trayvon Martin, who we know for a fact was followed by George Zimmerman, was standing his own ground, many who shared Juror B-37’s condescending viewpoint and “felt bad” for Rachel who was “using phrases [they] never heard before” have not considered themselves ignorant for not understanding her. Those same individuals may never challenge the absurdity of having deemed themselves the standard of comparison; nor will they realize that they misnamed her “uneducated” in order to hide from the paralyzing fear of a heavy-set, dark skinned teenager unwilling to bow to their assumed superiority.

Rachel Jeantel cannot be reduced to just a witness in a popular trial because what she endured in court and from the media were private acts made public: the mocking and silencing of black women and girl’s stories as well as the devaluing of their traumas. In response to critics, Jeantel shared with Piers Morgan that  “[My critics] should be appreciating [me]. You should learn from this situation. If it happened to you or your family, would you step up or would you just say ‘oh, it ain’t my business’?” To my mind, she has remained brilliant and strong in spite of the overwhelming grief of losing a friend and then being publicly labeled as ignorant–as a national embarrassment–because she, like James Baldwin, knows that  “it is [never] the black child’s language that is in question, it is not [their] language that is despised: It is [their] experience.”

______________________________________

L_G_Parker-The_'Unsophisticated'_Mirror_of_Rachel_Jeantel-lgpLauren G. Parker is an undergraduate, intended Creative Writing major at George Mason University. Currently, she is co-coaching Richmond, Virginia’s internationally competing youth slam poetry team.

 

An Open Letter to Juror B-37 in the Zimmerman Trial

An Open Letter to Juror B-37 in the Zimmerman Trial
July 16, 2013

Court Cases, Criminal Justice, News Media, Reality TV, Social Media

Dear Juror B-37,

I saw your interview with Anderson Cooper on AC360 and I want to thank you for the time you took away from your family to serve in the public process as a juror.

JurorB37

That is the nicest thing I can say to you because I find you to be a disgusting human being.

It’s obvious that you never once considered Trayvon’s point of view and did not then, or now, see him as a full human being, worthy of the same rights to which all Americans are entitled and the Human Rights declared by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Did you even bother to listen to the case?

You took George Zimmerman’s story to be truthful and, yet, you say he “went too far” and that you were certain he had some “exaggerations” and “inconsistencies.” Gee, what do you think he could have exaggerated about? Was it the head bashing, perhaps? The fear for his life? The first punch? Everything happening at the T?

You claim that you didn’t understand the law (and, btw, “went too far” = Manslaughter, bare minimum) but you had plenty of time to ask for clarification; and the only question presented to the judge about the law was Manslaughter. According to you, you were confused about everything. Why not more questions?

You claim that Rachel Jeantel wasn’t so credible to you and, yet, you were certain that Trayvon said “creepy ass cracka.” So, which is it, Disgusting Juror? You can believe a phrase that has absolutely zero proof of existence but you can’t believe that Trayvon was NOT the initial aggressor and did NOT throw “the first punch,” considering Rachel told you she heard the verbal confrontation and the “bump” on Trayvon?!!

And, yet, you feel “sorry” for Rachel Jeantel because she was so “uneducated” and because of her speech? Well, let me tell you something: Rachel Jeantel does not need nor want your “sympathy.” What she wanted was justice for her friend and you have ensured that the justice George Zimmerman deserves has now been delayed. Rachel Jeantel is smarter than you, probably speaks more languages than you, is more street-smart than you; and as soon as she gets her surgery, she will be far more eloquent than you think you are, Disgusting Juror!

You think it would be okay for George Zimmerman to be your Neighborhood Watchman NOW and that he has “learned his lesson?” Well, good. I hope you have a Neighborhood Watchman EXACTLY like George Zimmerman. Then, you can see what your own hands have wrought.

HLNTV.com
HLNTV.com
I can’t wait for you to learn that the audio experts EXCLUDED George Zimmerman from being the one screaming. It wasn’t him, you twit. But just like the Sanford Police Department, you gave him the Presumption of Innocence he doesn’t deserve. I would love to see your face when you learn that “Georgie” threw a woman across the room, called his ex-fiance a “hoe,” had a restraining order put on him from his ex-fiance’ and the “meek” man who could not fight assaulted an undercover police officer even AFTER he identified himself, to which “Georgie” replied, “I don’t care WHO you are!” and assaulted him.

You believed the wrong person. You set free the wrong person. YOU are a wrong person.

I don’t care about the tears you had after you gave the verdict to the bailiff. You cried because you knew, deep down inside, you appealed to white supremacy / racism more than anything else. Certainly, there was some doubt in this case but all REASONABLE doubt is removed once you realize that George Zimmerman is a lying piece of murderous scum trash and YOU set him free before even deliberating with the other jurors and even after.

You are a disgusting human being. And I find your desire to write a book after you set a child murderer free to be disgusting and that’s why I repeat the insult. You are a racist and could never think about what Trayvon Martin might have been thinking or feeling. Perhaps you need to read my Closing Argument.

You talked about how sorry you felt for George Zimmerman’s life, through your tears. Anderson Cooper had to collect himself when he realized you were only crying for “Georgie” and asked, “Do you feel sorry for Trayvon?,” to which you replied, “I feel sorry for both.”

See how you couldn’t even condescend to feel for Trayvon, alone, not even for a moment?

That’s how we know you’re a disgusting human being.

I’m glad you said you will never serve on another jury. Please don’t. There is enough injustice in this world.

Sincerely,

Disgusted by You

Justice for Trayvon

Update: Due to the excellent diligence of @MoreAndAgain on Twitter, Disgusting Being Juror B-37 was dropped by her literary agent. After the public statement was issued, reportedly Juror B-37 decided she wasn’t going to write a book anymore and provided the following statement:

JurorB37 Book Deal

Shorter Juror B-37: I had NO IDEA how many people would hate me following my self-serving interview with Anderson, especially since I was just testing out the waters to see who’d buy my book. I had NO IDEA @MoreAndAgain would ensure my ass was handed to me and my Literary Agent would drop me like, well, like George Zimmerman dropped Trayvon to the ground without a care in the world for his life or humanity, with his depraved mind.

We already know you enjoy reveling in lies, Juror B-37, and we also now know that your attorney husband is friends with Mark O’Mara. I wondered why that other disgusting being, Frank Taaffe, was so confident about the verdict and knew certain votes and now I’m clear, you were the source.

We’re not surprised.

Dr. Kimberly Ellis ( Dr. Goddess)

Former Producer, OUR COMMON GROUNG

Scholar. Artist. Activist. Trial Watcher and Analyst. View all posts by SocialCourtTV →

How the media tried to assassinate Chris Dorner Claims of ‘mental illness’ are in the mind of the beholder l Thandisizwe Chimurenga

How the media tried to assassinate Chris Dorner Claims of ‘mental illness’ are in the mind of the beholder

Published on Thursday, 21 February 2013 15:55

 Thandisizwe Chimurenga

LAWatts Time  Contributing Writer

 

 

Christopher Jordan Dorner is dead but his words and actions will continue to impact the Los Angeles area and beyond for quite some time. The former U.S. Navy lieutenant and Los Angeles police officer who is alleged to have shot and killed four people earlier this month was the subject of the largest manhunt in Southern California history.  Authorities say that manhunt ended on Feb. 12 with Dorner, surrounded by law enforcement in a cabin in the Big Bear area of San Bernadino, committing suicide as highly flammable tear gas canisters ignited the cabin and burned it to the ground.

Dorner’s ‘manifesto’, in which he declared war on the Los Angeles Police Department and his subsequent actions were horrifying to many.  In an effort to understand the reason behind his rage and actions, many mainstream media outlets posited that Dorner must have suffered from some sort of mental illness.

Appearing on “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Feb. 7 Dr. Xavier Amador, a regular commentator for CNN, said there was “absolutely no basis in reality for [Dorner’s] complaints that he was mistreated, that there was any kind of police corruption,” that Dorner had “clear signs of mental illness,” and that his ‘manifesto’ was “delusional.”

Amador’s analysis was based on a review of Dorner’s LAPD case file, he said.

According to Neon Tommy the online news site of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared that “Whatever problem [Dorner] has is mental,” while speaking at a press conference on proposed gun safety legislation. Villaraigosa’s comments were part of a Feb. 7 news article entitled “Christopher Dorner’s Navy Service Record And Mental Health Scrutinized.”

On Feb. 9, The Associated Press ran a news brief on Dorner’s unsuccessful attempt to obtain a restraining order in 2006 against his then-girlfriend Ariana Williams.  The story quotes court documents filed in the case that called Dorner “severely emotionally and mentally disturbed.”  The court documents also link Williams to a post about Dorner on a website that was signed anonymously, calling Dorner “twisted” and “super paranoid.”

Also on Feb. 9, The Christian Science Monitor, in “Christopher Dorner: Experts look for clues to alleged cop killer’s mental state,” quotes a retired FBI profiler who said Dorner’s actions were “completely over the top.” Dorner, who claimed in his manifesto that he simply wanted to “clear his name,” had a “personality disorder” according to Mary Ellen O’Toole.

While it can be considered normal to search for answers in a case such as this, attempting to make a mental health diagnosis of Christopher Dorner without ever having physically examined him is not.

“It is difficult to make a diagnostic conclusion given how little any of us know about Dorner’s mental health history, having no audio transcripts to review, no testing and assessment instruments to analyze, and no clinical interview data, said Thomas Parham, PhD.  Parham is past president of the national Association of Black Psychologists and a co-author of “Psychology of Blacks: Centering Our Perspectives in the African Consciousness.”

“All we have is a so-called “manifesto” (that I have not read) that is selectively presented in the media.  So, for the press and media to be making a statement in absence of that kind of information is just interesting, if not useless chatter,” he said.

Clive D. Kennedy, a clinical forensic psychologist and president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, echoes Parham’s comments on evaluating Dorner’s mental state.  “I believe no professional has indicated he or she is aware of Mr. Dorner’s mental health status and therefore, we are unlikely to ever know, including those in the media who have been so forthcoming of his psychiatric condition,” he said.

Dorner claimed in his manifesto clearly and explicitly that not only was he a victim of racism but that his attempts to “blow the whistle” on the racism of the LAPD against him and other officers are why he believes he was fired.  According to Dorner retaliation against “snitching” on other police officers was one of several corrupt practices within the, department.  Despite this, much of the media coverage of Dorner’s mental state has conveniently left this fact out.

Are Charges of Racism Enough to Push One Over The Edge?

In her Feb. 9 Los Angeles Times op-ed, civil rights attorney Connie Rice recalls a conversation she had with former Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Jesse Brewer. Describing him as “wise and classy,” Rice states that Brewer, the first African American president of the Los Angeles Police Commission that oversees the LAPD, “came to my law office in 1990. He described to me his own ordeals on the force, in which white officers illegally blocked his entrance to the Police Academy, tried to plant false evidence on him, blocked all of his promotions and set him up for ambush in the field. He also described how viciously the department retaliated against him and other officers who tried to stand up for fellow officers or civilians who suffered abuse from cops. The LAPD never did allow whistle-blowers of any kind to survive, no matter how righteous they were,” wrote Rice.

Chillingly, Rice goes on to write that Brewer told her that Black LAPD officers had to resort to accepting abuse from white police officers and  “outsmarting” them because, “If you let them get to you, you’ll become homicidal.”

In her 1995 work “Killing Rage, Ending Racism,” noted political and cultural critic bell hooks wrote: “the conditions of racism can ‘drive one mad.’

Referring to an outbreak of violence in New York City in which a Black man opened fire randomly on a subway train, hooks states that “ … most Black folks can recognize that it is ethically and morally wrong to kill folks even as we can also sympathize with mental illness that is either engendered or exacerbated by life in [the United States].”

Psychologist Thomas Parham echoed that sentiment.  “We must extend our prayers for those who lost their lives in this rampage (both victims and perpetrator) and for the families who are left to grieve. There is never a justification for the taking of innocent lives, no matter what the level of unfairness one believes has impacted their own life.  There is nothing more sacred in the African tradition than life, so to be so callous in the taking of innocent lives would seem to be the most fundamental violation of an African centered worldview.”

Parham continued, “Clearly, the actions Dorner engaged in are very “out of the ordinary,” and beyond the realm of most standards of normalcy and decency that society embraces. Yet, like all of us, he is a product of a social system that makes an implicit contract with its citizens that says if you work hard and play by the rules, including doing the right thing on your job, then success should be the reward for one’s hard work, dedication, and commitment … I suspect that if he embraced this implicit social contract with the rigidity of a very concrete thinker, and then believes that his life was ruined by some unfair and discriminatory treatment when he called himself trying to do the right thing and report abuse by a fellow officer, then the violation and betrayal he feels might evoke that type of anger, rage, and desire for retribution that we all witnessed…”

Paul Harris, a San Francisco-based attorney and author, says that “ … even in cases where the perpetrator of the crime is mentally ill, one must look at the concrete experiences of racism (and other environmental hardships) to understand the resulting behavior.”  Harris is the author of “Black Rage Confronts the Law,” a 1971 book based on a case in which Harris was successful in defending a young Black man accused of bank robbery.  “Too many people cry racism in explaining these crimes without combining the underlying mental problems, with the specific life experience with racism the person has suffered,” said Harris.

Joy DeGruy, author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” uttered similar  comments as Harris.  “I would think that any serious response would include consideration of the obvious and blatant differential treatment of African Americans by a dysfunctional justice system and the structural inequalities inherent in that system.”  DeGruy holds degrees in social work and clinical psychology and is an assistant professor at Portland State University.

More than 1,000 sightings of Christopher Dorner were reported to police during the manhunt to apprehend him.  The overwhelming majority of those tips were based on faulty identifications of Black men whose appearance was similar to Dorner.  What we do not know for sure is how many of those tips were from individuals that were simply Good Samaritans interested in assisting law enforcement, and how many were from individuals who were genuinely frightened that Dorner might attack them.

As we continue to ponder Dorner’s mental state we might also take into account the words of bell hooks:  “White supremacy is frightening.  It promotes mental illness and various dysfunctional behaviors on the part of whites and non-whites.  It is the real and present danger – not black rage.”

Read the LAWT Here

 

The Mundanity of White Privilege l The Pickaninny Papers

The Mundanity of White Privilege

MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2013 AT 10:39AM

By Lydia Holt

As a black woman living in the US, I find that it is often easier to get through my day if I ignore the everyday incidences of misogyny and racism that abound in our society. If I didn’t, I fear I would lose my mind. I’m not talking street harassment or being called “nigger.” No, nothing as overt as that. I’m talking about the small things that could be easily explained away as a misunderstanding having nothing to do with race or gender. They are subtle and unconscious behaviors.

The other day, I apparently left my blinders at home, and two incidents stuck out in my mind as perfect examples of white privilege in action. Perhaps it is a result of following so many academics and cultural critics on Facebook and Twitter.

My sister and niece were visiting Brooklyn from the wilds of central New Jersey, and we were going out to eat but first made a stop at a bookstore. There were six of us altogether including my husband and two kids. As we were leaving the store, my husband held open one of the two doors for us. My sister, niece and oldest son went through the door while I lagged behind slightly, herding my three-year-old through the doorway. Another man was also leaving the store and began opening the other door. Meanwhile, a woman was trying to get into the store. She was clearly in a hurry as she tried to push past me and my child and ended up being hit by the other door in the process. The man apologized, and she made some sort of verbal acknowledgement of his apology before continuing to squeeze by us without a look or word of excuse for her own rude behavior.

Now, usually, I would say she was just being rude and impatient and that would be true, but only partially. My husband was holding open the door, so that was clearly the path of least resistance so I can understand her desire to use that door. But, here is the thing, had I been a white woman, would she have been so quick to bum rush us to get at those books? If my husband were black, would she have more easily made the connection that he was holding the door open for me and waited those few seconds it would take for us to clear the threshold? I’m not privy to her inner thoughts, so I will never know for sure, but that is how racism works. It’s not all lynchings and Jim Crow. It’s the entitlement. Her need to go where she wanted to go trumped all else. She made the unconscious assumption that I would move out the way for her and the door was being held open for her benefit.

After dinner, we went to another restaurant for dessert. The kids bounded down the sidewalk ahead of us singing “Gangnam Style.” My sister and I walked a little behind while my husband took over herding responsibilities guiding them into the restaurant flight attendant style, one hand pointing at the open door, the other gently waving them inside. A couple that had been walking near us and were heading to the same place waited and smiled as the kids walked into the restaurant. My sister and I were a few steps behind and had to cut in front of the couple as they attempted to follow behind my husband. Of course there was no way for them to know that we were all together, but again, if we had been two white women, would they have given us the benefit of doubt and waited for us to either pass by or go inside? I don’t know. But given that my husband is white, he was with three obviously non-white children, and being trailed by two black women…. Perhaps I am expecting too much of their observational skills and over-thinking the situation, but that is precisely how all -isms and systems of oppression work, isn’t it? They, ever so subtly, put you in your place over and over again until you begin to do it to yourself. Until you begin to make excuses for the behavior.

I am sure that the woman and the couple are lovely people and would be the first to say they aren’t racist, and I am sure they even know some black people and may even call them friends (that old chestnut). But I can guarantee you that they are not at home blogging about what happened because for them, nothing happened. There were no incidences. They go about their days without ever thinking about their race and how they are being treated as a result of their race. White privilege offers you the luxury of always assuming the door is opened for you and not thinking twice about it.

 

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