Paramount Owes America an Apology for Jay-Z's Trayvon Series

On Monday evening, the Paramount Networks aired the first part of a six-part documentary series on the death of Trayvon Martin called Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.

If multimedia impresario Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter had chosen to tell it, there was a story to be told here: a story about a boy bounced around among his biological parents and other relatives after his parents’ divorce; a story of a boy whose descent into drugs, guns, fighting, and burglary accelerated after his father left his stepmother, Alicia, his “rock,” when Trayvon was 15.

There was a story to be told of how Trayvon’s school shielded him from the criminal justice system – much as the schools in neighboring Broward County shielded Parkland’s Nikolas Cruz – even after Trayvon was apprehended at school with a weapon, a burglary tool, and stolen jewelry.

TWA 800: The Crash, th... Jack Cashill Best Price: $10.39 Buy New $18.24 (as of 01:15 EDT - Details) This cautionary tale of abandonment and betrayal was not the one Jay-Z chose to tell.  Instead, he submitted his audience to a TV hour of racially incendiary hokum shamelessly untethered from the inarguable facts of the case.  The next five hours will not be any better.

The testimony of Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, dominated the opening hour.  Their grief seemed real enough, but instead of accepting responsibility for their son’s chaotic life, they projected their guilt onto the marginalized, dehumanized “other” of this story, George Zimmerman, the man who was forced to shoot Trayvon in February 2012 to save his own life.

The Martin family knew better.  By the time a deposition was taken with Tracy Martin a year after the shooting, Tracy, Sybrina, and the various attorneys representing the Martins were aware of Trayvon’s potential for violence.  What details Tracy may not have known, he learned during the deposition.

“Were you aware that he was suspended from school in the fall of 2011 for possession of the weapon and the jewelry?” George Zimmerman’s attorney, Don West, asked Tracy.

“Did Sybrina Fulton ever tell you in the fall of 2011 or in early 2012 that Trayvon was being considered for expulsion?” asked West again.

“Were you aware sometime in November of 2011 that Trayvon was kicked out of Sybrina’s house?”  The producers spare the audience all such inconvenient details. Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 07:05 EDT - Details)

Instead, this first hour detailed Team Martin’s heroic effort to force the State of Florida to arrest George Zimmerman.  The state’s failure to do so immediately, the producers insinuate, was racist.

The hour concluded with the release, under pressure, of the 911 tapes.  On one tape, a man could be heard screaming desperately for help for more than 40 seconds.  Said Tracy on camera, “I know my son’s voice.  I know it was him.”  Sybrina said the same.  For Tracy, the release of the 911 tape “was the game-changer,” the one bit of evidence that made Zimmerman’s arrest inevitable.

In the real world, the SPD did not try to bury the 911 tapes.  Its officers played them for Tracy two days after the shooting.  The Orlando Sentinel reported at the time, “It was Zimmerman [crying out], Serino said.  He said he is certain of that because he played a recording of that voice for Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, and the Miami man said the voice was not his son’s.”  SPD investigator Chris Serino was not interviewed for the documentary.

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