(The Root) — It’s been a wild, dramatic ride for Rachel Jeantel. Since hearing the beginning of the confrontation that took the life of her friend, Travon Martin, Jeantel became a reluctant witness for the prosecution in the trial of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon.
When she testified, she was put through the wringer by the defense in the courtroom and ridiculed by scores online. Now that the trial is over, Rachel Jeantel will presumably go on with her life as best she can, trying to locate some modicum of normalcy after spending a year entwined in her friend’s murder case.
The story of her involvement with the trial has been a profound essay on race and communication, or lack thereof. She was vastly misunderstood on the witness stand, a pressure cooker of emotion. To many she appeared combative, untruthful, uncooperative. Last night on Piers Morgan’s show, Jeantel was given a chance to explain what the trial was like for her.
The person we saw sitting across from Morgan was the same young woman we saw during the trial. Her cadence, nuances, manner of speaking — all that remained, as did her raw honesty. Only this time, she smiled. She was relaxed. She spoke with Morgan and the viewing audience as she likely speaks to everyone in her life, how she probably spoke to Trayvon. She reflected fondly on him and their friendship, spoke about feeling guilty for not calling for help, and told us exactly how she felt about defense attorney Don West without saying it at all. (“He lucky I’m a Christian.”)
Jeantel was herself, as she has consistently been, without code-switching — toning down her blackness and speaking in a more socially accepted manner — and she dazzled, enlightened and educated. If only we all had the courage to be our true selves no matter who may be watching.
There were still those who littered Twitter with disparaging comments, but for the most part, those live-tweeting the show were impressed with and appreciative of Jeantel’s grace and persistent strength.
She can’t code-switch. That’s why people are mad. But if you really want to think about it….why should we HAVE to codeswitch?
— W.E.B.B.I.E DuBois (@fivefifths) July 16, 2013
— Natina Turner (@NFLGoodwitch) July 16, 2013
I have mad love for anyone who doesn’t feel the need to code switch.