black women

Scary or Excusable? Rachel Jeantel Couldn’t Read Letter She Supposedly Wrote

By  |  0 Comments


In the left corner, there’s the elitistic camp, including all the people who had a ball making fun of Rachel Jeantel, the clearly uncomfortable and argumentative star witness in the trial of George Zimmerman.  In the right corner is the political correctness camp, consisting of those who feel that anyone who dares to insult Jeantel has insulted all black women everywhere.

But here’s a fact that you may want to ponder: It appears that Jeantel can’t read.   When being asked to read a letter that she allegedly wrote to Trayvon Martin’s mother, Jeantel could barely read three or four words on the paper.

The letter supposedly consisted of all the things that happened on the night that Trayvon was killed.

When asked why she was having so much trouble reading the letter, Jeantel replied “I can’t read cursive.”

There are those who find this fact to be an appalling display of how the public education system has robbed black children.  Jeantel is, after all, 19-years old and expected to be able to function as an adult.  But then there are some who say that Jeantel’s struggles come from the fact that she is not African American, and English is not her first language.

Writing for the Huffington Post, James Marshall Crotty says that there is no excuse for Jeantel to not be able to read, especially when being asked to read a letter that she allegedly wrote:

How could a 19-year-old woman, raised in America’s public education system — on the verge of graduating high school no less — be unable to read her own words? Surely, Ms. Jeantel must have been nervous and distraught from having to testify about an emotionally difficult subject under cross-examination in a packed, charged courtroom — with millions watching via TV — while still mourning the loss of her late “friend.” Surely, it must truthfully be a case where Ms. Jeantel cannot read handwriting, but can read non-cursive writing. After all, most students in the digital age are not taught handwriting anymore. Surely, her courtroom difficulties were not because she is unable to read her own writing in any form.

Crotty then goes into the “soft bigotry of low expectations” as a possible culprit in Jeantel’s seeming illiteracy.   But others say that because Jeantel speaks Spanish and Haitian Creole, she is not entirely illiterate.   Crotty seems to believe that the educational system is the true problem, since Jeantel has been in the US long enough that she should have been able to read her own letter.

Nevertheless, in all such cases of gross academic and cultural failure, there is a wider cast of culprits. Naturally, this starts with the Miami-Dade County principals, teachers, and counselors, who year after year seemed to have passed Ms Jeantel along. And there’s the district superintendent, and other education personnel, who clearly failed to monitor her progress, set clear bright lines for excellence, and provide meaningful carrots and, yes, sticks, to insure that excellence.

Crotty also determines that Jeantel’s lack of educational preparation may have led to her not being able to do what she could for her dead friend, Trayvon Martin.  He says that had Ms. Jeantel been better educated, she might have made a better appearance on the witness stand, and wouldn’t have completely undermined the two most important days of her life.

Regardless of your political, ethnic or pedagogical persuasion, if you want to know what’s wrong with American education, you simply have to look at how Rachel Jeantel was passed along every step of the way right down to the most important two days in her life. Now when she could have done the most good for the departed Trayvon Martin and his devastated family, her vital testimony was undercut.

What do you think?