Who Failed Rachel Jeantel?

There is power in the use of words, language, and its context. We have a choice as to how we use this language. It would be ideal for words to be used in a constructive manner, for uplift and empowerment, but too often our words are used to belittle and chastise, and it is for the entire world to see.
There has been nationwide coverage over the George Zimmerman Trial in Sanford, FL, and the entire country is watching and anticipating the jury’s final verdict. But one young woman’s testimony has stirred up inflamed commentary regarding her use of language, demeanor, and assumed lack of education.
Rachel Jeantel’s lack of articulation of the English language was under a microscope as Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Don West, attempted and succeeded to make the prosecution’s key witnesses’ testimony seem not credible in the eyes of the jury. West’s continuous badgering or “interview” lasted more than four hours, but the bullying Jeantel received from young persons personal Twitter and Facebook accounts lasted days after her testimony.
I have never had to testify on behalf of a dead friend, and I pray I never will have to, but the reactions Jeantel has received regarding her testimony has been more of negativity, disapproval, and personal attacks. And a good number of these attacks have come from within the African American community. In this information age, we have become accustomed to speaking so freely because social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr offer a “safe space” for opinion for all ages. These outlets keep us connected with the entire world, social issues, political issues, and was how many became aware of the killing of Trayvon Martin in February of 2012.
These social media outlets have allowed users to stay engaged in this case and those involved. Jeantel entered an intense and daunting environment, hostile enough to intimidate or shake liberal, moderate, and/or conservative intellectuals. And for a 19-year-old senior in high school, the experience was more than overwhelming.
Jeantel’s inability to code switch and comprehend questions asked of her, along with her less than perfect English, and inability to read and write cursive, was a major highlight for social media critics and sympathizers. It was also a testament to our country’s failing public school system.
In a country like America who preaches education is everything, which it is, especially in this day and age, there is no excuse for why America’s students, like Jeantel, are continuously left disadvantaged. In our country, successful persons pride themselves on creating opportunities for themselves and making the most of those opportunities that are presented to them. But what about those who could never or will never access those opportunities because the resources are not available? To say or even assume that education throughout this country is equal is a fallacy and a fantasy, because Rachel Jeantel’s interview and testimony is a living breathing testament of the inequalities that continue to infect this so called great nation called the United States of America.
Before we point fingers, harass, or dehumanize an individual because of our ignorance to their history, their personal story, we must go deeper into the reasons behind a person’s behavior or outlook on life. We must be more compassionate and willing to understand that our circumstances are relative. My society may not be your reality. So the question is did “we” fail Jeantel or did she fail herself?