Race arose again, in topsy-turvy manner, when Rachel Jeantel, 19, a young black woman who was speaking to Mr. Martin on the phone shortly before he was shot, took the stand. Mr. Martin told her during that call, Ms. Jeantel said, that Mr. Zimmerman was following him; he called him a “creepy-ass cracker.” The defense team quickly jumped on the words, suggesting to the jury that Mr. Martin had profiled Mr. Zimmerman.
In the cocoon of the courthouse, even Mr. Martin’s bullet-scarred hooded sweatshirt, positioned for jurors in a clear plastic frame, appeared less a poignant symbol for the thousands who marched in his name than a lamentable but necessary piece of evidence.
Still, black pastors, sociologists and community leaders said in interviews that they feared that Mr. Martin’s death would be a story of justice denied, an all-too common insult that to them places Trayvon Martin’s name next to those of Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and other black men who were abused, beaten or killed by police officers.
“Profiling, stereotyping, the disparity in treatment of African-Americans when it comes to criminal matters, how imbalanced it all is in the eyes of African-Americans,” said the Rev. Lowman Oliver, the pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford. “That’s why so many eyes are on this case. It’s nationwide and international.”
The makeup of the jury, six women, none black, is occasionally noted. Race also framed Ms. Jeantel’s turn on the witness stand, which drew heckling online from white and black observers who mocked her demeanor. In testimony over two days, Ms. Jeantel, a high school senior and Mr. Martin’s friend, was clearly uneasy in the spotlight, at times impatient and often hard to hear or understand.
“She was mammyfied,” said Ms. Wilder, the sociology professor, expressing disappointment over the reaction. “She has this riveting testimony, then she became, overnight, the teenage mammy: for not being smart and using these racial slurs and not being the best witness. A lot of people in the African-American community came out against her.”
– Zimmerman Case Has Race as Backdrop, but You Won’t Hear it in Court, by Lizette Alveraz via The New York Times, July 7, 2013