|Can I get a break?
Like many of you, I’ve been watching the trial of George Zimmerman and paying a lot of attention to the woman pictured above, Rachel Jeantel.
Jeantel was the person on the other end of the phone when Trayvon Martin made his last phone call. She was the one he told about the “creepy cracker’ following him as he left the 7-Eleven with the iced tea and Skittles he had just bought for his little brother.
She was the last one to talk to him. And for her trouble, she spent two days getting questioned on the witness stand by a prosecuting attorney who obviously doesn’t know a damned thing about witness prep and a defense attorney who I can’t describe in a family blog.
And unfortunately, she’s also been beaten up a bit, by Black folks, on Social Media.
Why? Because Jeantel speaks quietly. She doesn’t speak really well. English isn’t her first language and she’s never been taught how to write in cursive. She kinda had an attitude on the stand. She didn’t want to be there and didn’t care if you knew it.
So she got savaged. Folks called her Precious, like the character from that really trying movie that I’ve yet to see, made fun of everything from her hair to her skin tone and even said that her testimony would lead to Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Reading some of the comments kind of pissed me off because Jeantel could have been one of my kids.
Those of you who are frequent readers of The Mad (political) Scientist know that when I’m not covering politics, I’m teaching media arts at an alternative high school in Southwest Philadelphia.
To say that my kids, who I affectionately refer to as The Children of the Corn, are a challenge, is an understatement. Most of them have been kicked out of every school they ever went to. Some kicked themselves out. Others became parents and needed a little extra help.
|Hanging out at Morgan State
I have girls who swear that they’re boys, kids who have mouths like sailors, and one kid, Rahkeem, who greeted me every morning with “Good Mornin’…my nigga!” despite my telling him every day that I didn’t care for that.
(Did I mention that for my birthday Rahkeem actually came in and had a conversation with me in which he WASN’T high? That was pretty rare for him. He went to everyone he knew and said “Ms. Clay asked me not to get high for her birthday, so I didn’t!”)
They don’t talk good. They don’t like courtrooms because many of them have spent far too much time in them. The idea of having to be in an outfit that didn’t lead to Ms.Clay screaming, “Pull up your friggin’ pants!” isn’t something they’re into.
But at their core, and sometimes I felt like I had to dig like a coal miner to get to that core, they were good people.
They helped me up the stairs when I broke my ankle. (Granted, they also offered me pills from their stash of Percocet, but we won’t talk about that…)
Some of them helped me sell pretzels and water ice to finance their prom.
Others made sure that I was okay when I lost my brother Donnie to a heart attack.
And when many of them graduated from the program earlier this month, I got more than one thank you….and the occasional bear hug…
I don’t get paid a lot of money to hang out with the Children of the Corn. In fact, I sometimes spent more time helping them get through school than I got paid for. But the only thing that kept me from being them was being born to a set of parents who put a premium on education and nurtured me.
In other words, i got real lucky. Considering that many of my kids don’t have the greatest of relationships with their parents, that’s significant.
So my karmic debt gets paid by teaching kids about media, why it’s important, and how media portrayals determine how you’re treated.
What are you looking at from a karmic standpoint?
Well, to me, if you’re ridiculing a kid, and at 19, Jeantel is a kid to me, your karma is taking a beating. If you’re looking down your nose at that kid when you could be helping her do better, your karma is at a deficit. If you’re ready to make her the scapegoat for a family that might be denied justice for a murdered son, I don’t want to be around you if a piano is hovering overhead…
So as the late John Lennon said “Instant Karma’s gonna get ya…”
Plus, you should know better. Especially when you’re part of a race of people who are always being doubted…
So when you see the Rachel Jeantels of the world, don’t look down on them.
Especially if they’re a Performance Learning Center graduate.
Because, while I can call them the Children of the Corn, if I hear you do it, I’ll kick your ass.