Despite the cultural relevance and ubiquity of the Trayvon Martin case, I haven’t written about it since the trial started. No blogs, no articles, and not even any tweets or status messages.
This silence has been intentional. I have a sizable emotional stake in the outcome, and keeping up with and writing about the daily ebs and flows of a court case that may not end for weeks—and, most importantly, may not end how I want it to end—would burn me out. I’ve read many of the news stories and opinion pieces spawned by it, but writing—and the thinking/re-writing process that usually accompanies it—is just more of an investment for me.
I decided to break my silence tonight after a friend forwarded a story about the case to me that, all things considered, may very well be the saddest thing I’ve ever read.
Rod Vereen (Rachel Jeantel’s lawyer): “This was traumatic for her. I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was some, you know, they had a town hall meeting somewhere here in Miami. And one of the, I think they had psychiatrist, psychologist saying, oh, yeah, it is clearly obvious that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. I differ with that. I beg to differ. What she went through was traumatic, yes. You know, but she is dealing with it as best she can. She lost a good friend.”
“But Trayvon was one of the few guys, okay, and this is what, I mean, this ripped, tore my heart apart. She said he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion, you know, about my weight. And she said, so we communicated, because Rachel was, she was pretty much an introvert and so for her to be a 19-year-old young lady…”
Tom Joyner: “And she liked Trayvon because he didn’t tease her.”
Sybil Wilkes: “He was nice to her.”
Joyner: “He was nice to her.”
Vereen: “Very nice to her. Trayvon was a handsome little boy, all right? He was a cute kid. You know, and so here’s a young lady who’s infatuated the fact that somebody like Trayvon Martin befriended her and then she was just struck at the fact that their friendship was the way it was and they texted each other all the time. They called each other all the time, you know? And this is the way she communicated with them, you know. “
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 were 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.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)