By now we have all heard of Juror B-37, one of the six jurors in the Trayvon Martin Case. She had planned to cash in by writing a book on her experience of the trial, but that plan has been canned, and I can see why. My advice for, and wish for, Juror B-37: stay anonymous. And in the interest of furthering that goal: shut. up.
B-37, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, has done nothing to dispel the public’s notion that the verdict was racially based. Remember how we talked about the black experience from a white person’s point of view? I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that B-37 has never had a blunt discussion with a black person about how it really feels to be black. She may not think she is a racist – and I am sure she is not, in a KKK-hood-wearing, cross-burning way – but oh, she certainly is racist in that oblivious, presumptive way that is still so common… and it shows in many of her comments.
For the record, I don’t think that racial attitudes made any difference in the ruling. I think the jury was pretty much stuck with a “not guilty” verdict because of the way the “stand your ground” law is written: “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked…” The thing is, we have conflicting witness testimony, and while forensic science seems to indicate that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, we have no way of knowing who attacked whom. Martin could very well have been “standing his ground” against an attack by Zimmerman, for all we really, factually, provably know.
But B-37’s comments, assumptions, and conclusions show us the view from inside her head. I’m sure it’s a very pretty view from where she sits, but to those of us looking in the windows from out here – meh, not so much.
First, back to the provable facts of the case: no one but Zimmerman really knows who attacked whom, but B-37 is certain that Martin was the attacker, and is therefore at least as much to blame as Zimmerman for his own death. “Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him…. When George confronted him . . . he could have walked away and gone home. He didn’t have to do whatever he did and come back and be in a fight,” she said, in commenting that Martin “played a huge role in his own death.”
Her beliefs about Martin make total sense when you consider her beliefs about Zimmerman: she concedes that he should not have left the vehicle, but “I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done… But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong…. I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said. Zimmerman “had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.” When speaking of Zimmerman’s role in Martin’s death, she uses a lot of generalized, passive phrases that remove culpability: “I mean, it’s what happened. It’s sad. It’s a tragedy this happened, but it happened…. He was frustrated, and things just got out of hand.”
B-37 shows a pitying, patronizing, self-superior attitude toward witness Rachel Jeantel, saying she was “not a good witness.” “I didn’t think it was very credible, but I felt very sorry for her. She didn’t want to be there. She didn’t ask to be in this place. She wanted to go. She wanted to leave. She didn’t want to be any part of this jury. I think she felt inadequate toward everyone because of her education and her communications skills. I just felt sadness for her.” B-37 also told Anderson Cooper that she had never heard some of the words and phrases that Ms. Jeantel used, and didn’t know what they meant. In essence – because B-37 couldn’t understand Ms. Jeantel, she made some pretty crass assumptions about her background and abilities, and even presumed to know how Ms. Jeantel felt about herself, based on B-37’s own views of her. Sadly, B-37 has a lot of company in her views of Ms. Jeantel, who was mocked in the press for her inability to read cursive (actually, many schools no longer teach it) and her lack of command of English (She speaks English; I understood everything she said. It’s just not white-bread English). One might cut her some slack if one realized that a) she has a serious underbite, and b) she also speaks Creole and Spanish, thank you very much.
So there you have it. Martin was at least equally to blame for his own death, if not more so than Zimmerman; Zimmerman meant well and it was just sad that things went wrong; and Ms. Jeantel is uneducated, unintelligible, and should be embarrassed to appear in such a lofty venue as a courtroom. So tell me, when a teenager walking home with iced tea and candy is stalked and ends up dead, and this is a middle-aged white woman’s impression of the incident, just what conclusion do you draw?
I don’t think Juror B-37 realized just how incredibly offensive her thoughts and notions are. If she has been following the explosion in the Twitterverse and elsewhere, maybe she is just now starting to get a clue. Thought patterns like hers probably did not make any difference in the trial verdict, but it surely is thought patterns like hers that led to a young black kid getting killed while lawfully, peaceably walking home in the rain.