“Articulate” is a word that is so loaded, it’s only used when the speaker intends to say something beyond its actual meaning.
When used to describe people like President Barack Obama or Gen. Colin Powell, “articulate” remarks on much more than their ability to speak well. It’s a comment about their physical presentation, diction, perceived level of threat, and unexpected intelligence.
It’s a word that says much more about the speaker’s expectations of the subject than the subject himself.
When Jahvaris Fulton, big brother to Trayvon Martin, took the stand last Friday, his very presence on the stand was strategic. Prosecutors knew that they needed to quell conceptions of the dead boy as a deviant whose colloquial dialect has made him seem menacing to some. Fulton showed the court the type of young men Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin were actually raising.
From Fulton’s short time on the stand, he has been described as articulate. His suit, tie and soft-spoken demeanor have made him seem safe; his credentials as an information technology major at Florida International University render him someone worthy of time, attention and, perhaps, respect. Though he said very little, these signifiers have characterized Fulton to the jury as acceptable.
When Fulton was asked of his relationship with the deceased, he asserted that they were “very close.” Following his testimony, Fulton retweeted a picture that his mother had posted of the two, commenting “Love you Bro.”
— Jahvaris Fulton (@jahvaris_martin) July 5, 2013
Fulton, who strongly resembles his brother, described the normalcy of the childhood the two shared. Four-and-half years older, the 22-year-old Fulton served as a reminder of all that Martin could’ve become, had he simply been allowed to live.
As the case drags on, it becomes clear that that the jury will have to like Trayvon Martin in order to defend him. Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin will endure painful characterizations of their unarmed son as a case is built to justify his death.
Simply because he is “articulate,” Javharis may be the one to redeem his little brother’s memory. One pundit, who lauded Fulton’s testimony, described him as “the type of son anyone would be happy to have.”
I’d describe Fulton’s brother, Martin — outfitted in a hoodie and sneakers, with a cell phone at his ear and junk food in his pocket — as the son a lot of people have already.