It looks like we're having a national conversation about Trayvon Martin...again

Tonight, BET and the Paramount Network will launch a 6-part series on the Trayvon Martin case which means we’re going to be hearing a lot about this case for the next few weeks. This morning CBS hosted Martin’s father and the producers of the project for a discussion on how Martin’s shooting has (according to them) led us to this moment in time:


“I think the central thesis of our documentary is that Trayvon Martin’s story ignited change in America, but also led to a backlash that we’re currently experiencing in our politics,” said series co-director Jenner Furst. “And we wanted to use the case to explore that backlash and understand how it’s affecting our daily life now.”…

Co-director Julia Willoughby Nason said the series draws a direct line between the killing of Trayvon Martin and the rise of white nationalism in America.

“Trayvon Martin’s death gave birth to Black Lives Matter; the verdict was when the hashtag was created,” she said. “So, we chronicled the birth of Black Lives Matter all the way to the ‘whitelash,’ the opposite-side reaction to that. We go from Trayvon to Trump, and we see the connective tissue to the last six years and how the political landscape has been thrown into mass chaos today.”…

Furst said he hopes “Rest in Power” will be a teaching tool. “People can watch it and if they’re affected by it, if what they see they feel is wrong, they can use their civic duty of voting to change the story. Stand Your Ground, it’s very unfortunate that the law was passed to begin with, but it’s in over 20 states across this country.


I haven’t seen the program yet, but it’s pretty obvious where this is coming from and the story it’s going to tell. Here’s the trailer for the series:

There’s no doubt Martin’s parents have been through every parent’s nightmare. But the story of what happened that night isn’t as simple as the story that has often been told in the media. Already, many of the news sites writing about this series have a sparse description of events which skips over everything that matters. From the CBS story:

A new documentary series explores the long-lasting consequences of the 2012 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking home in his Florida neighborhood when he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman.

This was a misunderstanding that led to a fistfight that led to a shooting. The real question here is not whether Martin was unarmed but how this escalated into a physical confrontation in which Zimmerman wound up on his back with Martin on top of him. The LA Times does a little better:

A Florida jury on July 13, 2013, acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, a hoodie-wearing unarmed black teenager, during an angry confrontation in a gated community on a rainy night. Just over five years later, the resonance from that tragedy has become deeper and more painful.


At least the Times includes the bit about an “angry confrontation.” The real question, in this case, is who was responsible for that confrontation. The left’s answer is that it’s all Zimmerman’s fault for following Martin. But a case of mistaken identity shouldn’t have escalated beyond a heated conversation. Why did it?

I’m not hopeful this documentary is going to present the case fairly on that point. Five years ago, Martin’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him right before the shooting, said she believed Trayvon Martin probably threw the first punch.

Jeantel expounded on her thoughts on what occurred when Zimmerman and Martin met face to face. “I believe Trayvon hit first,” she said. She went on to describe how she believed that Trayvon throwing the first punch was likely caused by Zimmerman attempting to grab and detain Martin.

While it is impossible to confirm Jeantel’s speculation, this revelation coincides with the testimony she gave during the Zimmerman trial. On the stand, Jeantel indicated that she could hear Martin saying “get off, get off” before the phone call they were on disconnected. It also expands upon the account she gave earlier this week, during an interview on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.” The 19-year-old described to Morgan how she told Martin that Zimmerman might be a “pervert” or “rapist.” She believed that Martin’s fear led him to flee the older man, but not head straight to the home where he had been staying because the 12-year-old son of his father’s fiancee was there.


We know why Zimmerman was looking for Martin. He thought he was a possible robbery suspect. He was wrong about that. We also have an idea why Martin confronted Zimmerman rather than simply going home. He thought some creep was following him with bad intent (he told Jeantel he might be a “pervert” or a “rapist”). This mutual misunderstanding should have been settled with a conversation but it quickly became a fight. Again, the key question is how? Did Zimmerman try to grab Martin? Did Martin confront Zimmerman looking to teach him a lesson? It’ll be interesting to see how the documentary handles these details because they really do make a difference when trying to weight what happened and why.

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Ed Morrissey 4:41 PM on September 29, 2023