"...he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion, you know, about my weight."
In a few months we will know if a jury believes that George Zimmerman was compelled to follow Trayvon Martin because of his race. We will find out if Trayvon paid the ultimate price for one of the most perpetuated and prevalent stereotypes in the media: the thuggish image of a young black man. One thing we know now, however, is that there is yet another victim of tired stereotypes and prejudices in this case, and that is Rachel Jeantel.
@Chrxstophvr: That fat black girl testifying in the Trayvon Martin case belongs on a plantation somewhere picking cotton.
@NeshobaCountyMS Rachel Jeantel hurt more black folks today than 1,000,000 Paula Deens singing 10 lil niggas.
Perhaps the most telling tweet came from Olympic athlete Lolo Jones:
@lolojones Rachel Jeantel looked so irritated during the cross-examination that I burned it on DVD and I'm going to sell it as Madea goes to court.
Television and film has desensitized us to women that look like Rachel Jeantel. After all, isn't she just another Angry Black Woman?
In the same way the media has projected the image of the thuggish young black man, television shows and films LOVE their larger than life Angry Black Woman. You know who I mean, she's in every blockbuster movie and on every primetime show. She's usually dark complexioned but sometimes a lighter complexion and very rarely fair-skinned. She's almost always overweight, but sometimes very thin. She's loud, but often doesn't need to utter a word; she just gives that look and rolls her eyes. She is usually over thirty, but sometimes in her twenties and often in her forties. She is a bus driver, a DMV clerk, the First Lady of the United States, a nurse, a sassy maid, an annoyed woman in line at the grocery store, the nanny or the secretary. Any time a television show or film needs to portray an unwelcome authority figure, or a pushy character with little patience and lots of attitude, but also provide comic relief, they send in Angry Black Woman.
"These kinds of terms - combat, aggression, anger - stalk black women, especially black women who are dark-skinned and plus-sized like Rachel, at every turn seeking to discredit the validity of our experiences and render invisible our traumas." - Brittany Cooper, Salon Magazine
The most surprising comments about Jeantel, I found, came from the black community. Shouldn't we be lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down? But then I paused for a moment and realized that we are the biggest producers of films and TV shows portraying Angry Black Women. Some of the most egregious examples of the Angry Black Woman appear in films created by black filmmakers or for films targeted to black audiences. I was devastated to see that Oprah Winfrey's first scripted shows for her network OWN would be created by Tyler Perry, guaranteeing the continuation of stereotypes that Oprah has herself faced. Mama Hattie, from Perry's Love Thy Neighbor, is the quintessential comedic angry black woman. Tyler Perry's Madea, Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys -- basically everything Tyler Perry makes features this type of woman as a cartoon character or a viper. Honestly, what is Tyler Perry's problem with black women?
"Girls who speak frankly are labeled bitches. Girls who are not attractive are scorned. The rules are reinforced by visual images..."
To Pipher's statement I would add that black girls who speak frankly are labeled as being angry and rarely taken seriously and if they have to testify at murder trials they may run the risk of public shaming and standing in the equivalent of modern day stocks, until we have more Olivia Popes and fewer Madeas. I think about Jeantel when I read that part of Pipher's book. She learned a hard lesson during this trial. I hope she'll continue to be honest and not worry too much about being nice.
Originally posted to DogParkMedia.com