Friday, June 28, 2013

Language, education, and Rachel Jeantel

In "Rachel Jeantel’s lack of literacy is a societal problem," Jennifer Oliver O'Connell writes that "Rachel Jeantel’s testimony on the witness stand during the George Zimmerman murder trial was cringe-inducing, embarrassing, and mortifying to watch."
From the title of the article, I had expected it to mention the societal problems related to the inequities and inadequacies of education systems in a highly racialized society. It doesn't. 
Instead, it's a celebration of exceptional individuals and families who "made it" and a condemnation of the multitudes like Rachel Jeantel whose languages and lives are low-status indicators. 
The total lack of empathy is revealing of a disposition that judges, dehumanizes and is intent on distancing the judging eye from the "other." 
It also reveals the stark class divide between self-satisfied achievers and the grassroots whose languages and lives have no place or rights in the legal systems where they are disparagingly over-represented.