Jamie Mayes, AOE

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Rachel Jeantel…As Requested by My Baby Sister

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm

rachel

For the past couple of weeks, one of the most important trials in history has taken place. The case of George Zimmerman versus Trayvon Martin has sparked media frenzy. In frustration and at times, tears, Rachel Jeantel testified for two days about her final conversation with the deceased victim. She was grilled and picked apart by the defense in efforts to destroy her credibility. However, while the defense was attempting to distort her reliability, America was mocking her image. Upon her first appearance on the news, there were immediately jokes about her image and speaking ability, sparking combative conversation between people.  

I, friends, have had it. The disrespectful remarks about a young woman who has had the courage to stand during such a tumultuous experience sickens me. Perhaps, what sickens me most is that it comes from many people who are of the same dissent as Rachel Jeantel. These are the same individuals who claim to be so distraught by the death of a young black boy who was gunned down while walking through his father’s neighborhood. “Justice for Trayvon,” they shout, “justice for Trayvon!” Then they bash the key witness who can help this become reality. Folks have become so shallowly concerned with her image, something that for the most part she cannot control, that they have lost focus on the most important factor- her testimony in this trial. In addition to jokes about her non-Hollywood appearance, there have also been insolent remarks about her language and speaking ability. If could issue a physical lashing to America I would snatch the largest switch form a tree in the yard and tan that hide! It is much needed at this moment.

While so many people were focused on irrelevant factors, they missed the things which make this woman courageous and a possessor of a beauty like no other. One the first day of Rachel’s testimony, she struggled greatly to keep her composure on the stand. She appeared to be grouchy and short tempered with the defense. The media immediately noticed her imperfections and began criticizing her. Her ill attitude posed as a threat to the case; yet, I understood what she might have been feeling. This process has been long and grueling, and in addition to grieving the death of a person she heard dying over the phone, Rachel was now being subjected to a critical examination of what she heard as he died. Questions which attempt to threaten one’s credulity after being told the same thing over and over is enough to frustrate anyone. Rachel was not foolish, though; she was only tired. The following day, she returned to the court refreshed and ready to testify again.

On day two, Rachel came prepared. She appeared to be less irritable and dealt with the critical defense in more patient manner. I, on the other hand, cursed and yelled at the defense lawyer, threatening to let him know how I felt if I ever see him in person. She understood his strategy; he wanted to discredit her and make it seem as if she was not smart enough or patient enough to be the star witness of the case. While I understood, too, I still found it difficult to keep my composure as the lead defense tried to allege that English was not her primary language that her story didn’t make sense, and even tried to lie in order to trick her. Though she was tempted, she did not lose her cool. A wise Rachael requested to see the transcript and information claimed by the defense attorney and corrected him on his misstated information. As I sat in the living room with my sister, who is only a year younger than Rachel, we cheered for her like she was the start player in a championship game. She was the game changer.

Her game changing ability was ignored by the media though, as they also attempted to question her credibility and intelligence by making negative statements about her disposition and muffled English. They labored over her prior day experience and dealt very little with her quick wit during day two’s trial. I was not surprised by the tactics of the media, especially in regards to a case such as this and a witness who is not what they consider appealing. However, I was angered by the way society, especially black society has participated in the mockery of this young lady. Photos have been posted all over social media with insensitive comments about her appearance and language. This continual degradation of those who do not fit our commercialized image of beauty and sophistication sickens me. Society has become so self-centered that instead of focusing on the impact she made in a trial that will change the face of America in one way or another, people make ignorant comments about irrelevant factors.

More than ever, this young woman is in need our support. She was battered on the stand and is being battered by society only because she was the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin. Perhaps what baffles me most is how we can be so angry at Paula Deen for language used years ago, but then verbally slay a fellow black woman who is trying to get justice for her friend. The repetitive battering of our own people followed by an expectation for others to be super-sensitive to us is played out. It is time for more of us to be the example of what we wish to see.

I perceived Rachel a little differently. I didn’t see a big black girl; I saw a sister who fit a more historic image of black women.  I didn’t feel a negative attitude; I saw the frustration of a young woman who understood a lawyer’s attempt to downplay an incident to took her friends life. I didn’t hear a slow speaking individual; I heard a quick tongue and a sharp mind that was wise enough to ask to see the transcript when a defense lawyer tried to confuse her. I didn’t her an inaudible and unclear voice; I heard the accent of a young woman who speaks three languages fluently. Perhaps, people should listen again.

I would like for Rachel Jeantel to know she is BEAUTIFUL, from her thick woman body to her chocolate brown skin and her raspy, tri-lingual voice. She is the image of courage and strength; she is a representation of who I work to be- one who is not threatened under fire. She is a reflection of loyalty and truth, and these things people, cannot be replaced by skin tone, a size two body or fancy book learning. Don’t disrespect a sister, help a sister. Keep your head up Rachel; I’m proud of you!

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Letter to Paula Deen…This Might Shock You!

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2013 at 6:42 am

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Dear Paula Deen,

I have been referred to as a militant type for many years. I try to remain culturally aware and I avidly criticize society for its lack of tolerance and respect for the black culture. It is my belief that society has changed in the last fifty years but not enough. Therefore, when your story came to my attention, several of my associates and I had already predicted my reaction. I thought I would be angered by your comments. I was prepared to issue a verbal lashing on my blog, but as I read the article and watched your response I will moved in another way.

 

Over the years I have learned that there are many unfortunate lessons that are taught by our surroundings. Racism and cultural insensitivity is one of them.  AS an educator I have taught children from many different backgrounds and lifestyles, subjecting me to multiple personalities and beliefs. I have had to learn tolerance of others beliefs and patience with those whose upbringings do not coincide with my opinions. Mrs. Deen, I have been compelled to view your situation as I do that of many of my students. This is not an attempt to belittle or berate you, but attempt to understand your Southern upbringing and social practices. I had to adjust my emotional black Southerner reaction, and instead, evaluate the situation from a Christian and analytical aspect.  I was then reminded of the importance of mercy and the fact that the culture of the South is one that commonly accepts and supports such improper behavior, thus many people (not only you) mistakenly take the issue of race and slavery lightly.

 

When reconsidering the factors which surround you, I was not surprised to learn about your past beliefs and actions, nor was I appalled. I thought about two things instead: 1. You are a white woman of the deep South where Jim Crow laws are barely 50 years gone. 2. You are imperfect as are I and several others. The realization of these two things made me compassionate, instead. I was concerned about your well-being, for I am sure you now realize the severity of your actions. Mrs. Deen, it is okay.

 

There are many people who claim to be brutally hurt and offended by your words and actions. Yet, I know who I am and what I am not. As a result your comments do not offend me personally, but they do disappoint me.  The public court case and your home practices should be separated. Each should be dealt with in a specific manner, and the effects of the latter seem to be a bit extreme.

 

If I could wrap my arms around you at this very moment I would. I know that this is very hard time for you, and I offer my sincerest well wishes that you will eventually rebound. Let there be no mistake that this incident does not downplay the quality of your good food and house ware products; it simply exposes society to the imperfection you possess and a grand flaw that exists in our society. There is no immunity to imperfections; however, those who live in the limelight are often criticized in a much harsher sense. It is my belief that many people will be changed and affected by your experience, for your situation has certainly opened a more sensitive side of me that did I not think existed. As a matter of a fact, you have placed an issue that continues to be downplayed on the forefront of American society. While society continues to deny the racial inequalities and racism in this country, your controversy brings an important topic into the public eye.

 

I wish you all the best and may you continue to find the love and comfort in your kitchen that you have given to others around the world. Though it seems bleak right now, better things await you in the future.

 

 

Yours in writing,

Jamie Mayes

Author. Orator. Educator.

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