“…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. ” Rachel on Trayvon
To be honest, I have been intentionally staying away from the George Zimmerman (not Trayvon Martin) trial coverage. I read bits and pieces here and there and whatever I happen to catch on NPR or TV news coverage. Other than that, I’ve tried to stay away. It was always clear to me that Zimmerman would get away with shooting an innocent in cold blood, so I’ve had a hard time investing in keeping up with the trial. I would be sooooo happy to be wrong. Thrilled. Ecstatic. I’m just pretty sure I’m not wrong. And after the jury selection…
Then Rachel Jeantel took the stand. Suddenly, it became much harder to ignore the coverage, but I still tried. I got snippets from social media; I read an article or two covering the backlash against her. The Precious comparisons, the unkind comments about her hair, size, color, and accent. Then there was the backlash against the backlash. The anger at the black people participating in tearing her down, the indignation at white racist attitudes toward her. It all floated by; I tried not to get sucked down by it.
But then that quote started showing up. My reaction was not like other people’s, as far as I can tell. I was catapulted back to an all-night phone call in 10th grade.
For as long as I live, I’ll never forget when my best male friend in high school, Dominic, said “Yeah, you’re a 4. I mean, you’d be higher if you were just black or just fat. But both, together? Maybe 3, even.”
I didn’t have a Trayvon growing up. I had guys that I developed friendship with, but we (him, me, and everyone else) were hyper-aware of my undesirability as a potential [fill in the blank]. More importantly, they would turn on me in a second to make fun of my size or something else (rarely my race, often my strangeness) when it served them. Actually, that’s how most of those friendships started and ultimately ended.
Would it be wrong to say I was a little jealous of Rachel because she had someone like that in her life? Someone who accepted her without judgment. A guy who’s friendship she didn’t have to question. A spark of hope for something more that was allowed to blossom without being squashed. I wish I had had that. And I am sad that Rachel lost that, but I envy her having had it in the first place.*
I mourn the loss of Trayvon, and this makes me mourn him even more. He was a friend to a girl like me. As I said on someone’s facebook post yesterday, black girls need friends like Trayvon. Especially, fat black girls. As Rachel’s unique experience of Trayvon’s friendship and her treatment during Zimmerman’s trial have made abundantly clear, fat black female bodies are not worthy of love and respect and are instead subject to scorn and denigration. So, anyone who is willing to love and respect those fat, black female bodies is a friend of mine because that is an act of bravery.
Even in the face of my petty (pouty?) jealousy, I stand with Rachel. She is a beautiful, strong, smart woman going through a very intense, public trial. She deserves so much more than what Don West and the haters are giving her. She deserves our love and support. I don’t know that we can fill in the gap left by Trayvon, but we better damn well try.
*It’s only incidental that Rachel and I are (as far as my assumptions are concerned) both cis-gender hetero black women. We all deserve to be seen as desirable by whomever we are attracted to. Especially when society tells you that you are so very undesirable.
“embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love-"care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect and knowledge” - in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn.“