When members of the media make excuses for Rachel Jeantel with respect to her participation in the George Zimmerman trial, they are denying the legacy and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Rachel Jeantel was supposed to be the prosecution star witness at the Zimmerman trial. Exactly why, I don’t know. The fact that she was the last person to speak to the deceased and the subject of their conversation revealed little. Eye witnesses to the physical conflict revealed a lot more because they actually saw something. What will come of this trial is anyone’s guess at this point. The matter is now in the hands of the jury and their verdict may hang on the question of whether the jury is afraid of fallout over their ruling. Given the polarization that has occurred in the US population of late, and the escalation of violence by black gangs, that fear may be real. But back to the real topic at hand.
Dr. King is probably most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, and justly so, although his other actions in pursuit of equal rights for all should not be forgotten. But Dr. King knew that when you judge people by the content of their character you will include their education, their quality of language, their honesty and reliability, and their respect for others. If asked, he would probably agree that the one thing that Black Americans can do to advance their opportunities in society is to become educated, cultured, and an indistinguishable part of general society. Instead of following that model we see his supposed successors demanding that people be “authentically black” rather than authentically American. But being authentically Black is a cultural and personal dead end.
Let’s take a closer look at Rachel Jeantel; a young woman who is poorly educated, cultural ignorant, somewhat inarticulate, and apparently not fully cognizant of the importance of the proceedings she is part of. She seems to think that anti-White racial epithets are acceptable. Yet her supporters claim that the fault is with everyone else; that they don’t understand “her world.” Well, with all due respect, her world is the same as everyone else’s. She doesn’t live on Mars. And more to the point, it is fairly obvious that she is the one out of step with the world around her. Perhaps she is pursuing an “authentic” identity, or perhaps she is simply willfully ignorant. We don’t know. But what we do know is that there are plenty of people who have come from backgrounds similar to hers, who have done well for themselves by abandoning ignorance for education and dependency for self reliance.
Then there was the contention that the defense lawyers don’t understand her world. In fact, they probably know that world all too well. After all, they are in the criminal defense business. They have probably seen numerous people who have turned their back on the road to success, opting for a life on the edges of the law, committing crimes when they can’t earn a legitimate living. They likely see willful ignorance on a regular basis, and are also likely to have seen numerous people who view a mainstream lifestyle as “inauthentic.” But what is authenticity?
Is Ben Carson inauthentic as a world class medical specialist because of his skin color? Or is he more authentic as a human being and an example of what America is all about and what someone should strive for? Which, arguendo, is more important? Was Trayvon Martin “authentic” because he had a reputation as a problem at school? Is Rachel Jeantel “authentic” because she can’t read or write cursive? According to Laura Ingraham, Jeantel wiped text files from her phone account because they contained sexually suggestive content. Did that content make her “authentic”?
The final question that should be asked is whether there is any value in believing in a social system or philosophy that is contrary to your own personal success. Should someone allow their skin color to dictate their lifestyle, education level and career choices? Should they accept what others tell them they should do because it is “authentic” or should they do something else; should they choose personal success, in some other, less traditional calling?
It has become fairly obvious that many of the people who are striving for supposed authenticity are not looking for equality of opportunity in society. They are looking, instead, for different rights based on their skin color; rights that allow them to get away with socially defiant and destructive behavior because they are told that such behavior is correct, given their background.
Dr. King’s dream is a wonderful goal that we all should strive to achieve. However, it will never come to pass unless and until the “black authenticity” is replaced with American authenticity and color blindness becomes the rule because no one continues to race bait in the name of their personal gain. Are you listening Al Sharpton? Are you listening Barack Obama?