This post has been updated.
Rachel Jeantel, the 19-year-old prosecution witness in the trial of George Zimmerman, has been the subject of conversation, much of it unkind, on social media. Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon Martin, when the unarmed, 17-year-old was shot to death by Zimmerman, who claims he did it self-defense. Besides Zimmerman, Jeantel was the last person to talk to Martin before he died.
Jeantel’s blunt, urban teenager demeanor has irritated some in the courtroom, including attorneys on both sides who at times acted as if she were speaking in tongues, and has appalled some viewers watching the televised trial, including some black people who consider her an embarrassment to the race.
But some bloggers are pushing back, arguing that the focus should be more on what the witness is saying as opposed to how she’s saying it.
Tracy Clayton at The Root says the cyber-mocking has stripped Jeantel of “the importance of her emotions and humanity.”
Rachel Samara, writing for the Global Grind, says Jeantel is not just the prosecution’s star witness but “the misunderstood witness” and that both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys “have an extreme disconnect from her reality.”
Danielle Belton, at the Black Snob, reminds those who are uncomfortable with the “realness” on display in the courtroom that Jeantel and Martin “are not actors in a Lifetime film about the killing of Trayvon Martin.”
Eric Deggans, media writer at the Tampa Bay Times weighed in Friday, suggested that Jeantel lacked the ability to “code switch,” and therefore was unable to bridge “the gulf between middle-aged, middle class, mainstream codes of behavior and life among youth from poorer, non-white neighborhoods.”