The Book that Trayvon's Parents Should Write
"Trayvon Martin's Parents Are Planning a Book" -- so reads the headline of a gentle December 13 article in the New York Times. The Times obviously found it newsworthy that the parents of the slain teen, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, met with publishing executives this week to shop a book about their son.
Reporter Julie Bosman wrote in hushed tones about "the somber and moving meeting" the parents had with their agent and several publishers. Although "faith" will be a central element of the book, Bosman acknowledged that it "has the potential to attract major media attention, especially on cable television, which exhaustively covered the fatal shooting and subsequent trial."
I read this story with particular interest, as those same cable channels have had less than zero interest in the honest account I wrote about the Zimmerman case, If I Had A Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman.
I suspect that Juror B37 would read this story with interest as well. In the aftermath of the trial, the female juror contracted with a Seattle literary agent who specializes in books about controversial trials. Within one day of this contract becoming news, however, the agent rescinded her offer "after careful consideration."
What prompted the reconsideration was almost assuredly fear. As the Washington Post reported uncritically, a Twitter movement leveraged "the mass fury" of those observers who were "appalled that anyone would seek to profit off the trial" and unnerved both the agent and the juror. Being sequestered "shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case," Juror B37 confessed in a public apology.
Thank goodness for low-information citizens and the sequestering of the jury. Like several others, Juror B29, the one non-white on the six-woman jury, knew almost nothing about the case coming in. As she admitted, her cursory attention to the shooting led her to believe that the seventeen-year-old Martin was only twelve or thirteen at the time of the shooting. She preferred reality TV to the news, The Real Housewives of New Jersey being her favorite.
It is unlikely that B29 would have voted to acquit George Zimmerman had she known what awaited her. "My whole life has fallen apart," Maddy told Inside Edition's Les Trent three months after the trial. "I've had death threats. On Facebook, someone wrote I'm gonna feel the same pain as Trayvon Martin's mom. Which means I'm gonna lose my son."
In their rush to send a transparently innocent man to prison for the rest of his life, the major media spared their respective audiences just about all knowledge of Martin's troubled past. Judge Debra Nelson spared the Zimmerman jury that same knowledge. Had the jurors known, they would not be feeling guilty today.
Martin's parents have the opportunity to set the record straight. According to the Times, they intend "to write a book that gives the full picture of their son." If so, they would do the public a service if they discovered what it was that inspired Martin's unprovoked attack on Zimmerman that rainy night in Florida.
Now that the media have finally acknowledged the "knock out game," the parents might ask whether their son was playing that "game." To find out, they might demand an honest sit-down with the one person who would know: Rachel Jeantel, the girl with whom their son was speaking up until the moment of his death. Was she really imploring their son to run, or was she urging him to sucker-punch that "creepy ass cracka?"
Sucker-punch Zimmerman, a man nearly half a foot shorter, is what Martin did. The evidence was overwhelming, which is why the jurors voted to acquit, not even knowing that Martin was an aspiring mixed martial artist who pouted if his opponents did not "b[leed] nuff."
Martin's mother knew about the fighting. The day after one fight, just months before his death, Martin told a friend that she "just kicked me out" and that he had to move in with his father. When the friend asked why, Martin answered, "Da police caught me outta skool." Said the friend, "U a hoodlum." "Naw," said Martin. "I'm a gangsta."
To get the "full picture" of their son, the parents might also want to speak to that cousin of Martin's who tweeted just five days before his death, "Yu aint tell me you swung on a bus driver." If possible, they might also want to talk to that bus driver.
The parents should certainly talk to the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (M-DSPD) that had apprehended Martin out of school and in school as well. They should demand to know why the officers did not tell them that they caught their son with twelve pieces of stolen women's jewelry, a watch, and a "burglary tool" shortly before his death.
Perhaps when Zimmerman reported to the dispatcher, "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about," Martin was, in fact, up to no good. As the toxicologist reported, he was certainly high.
In this regard, one question that the parents must ask is what prompted their son to venture out in the rain to buy Skittles and watermelon fruit juice cooler (not iced tea). They might also question those three young hoods he met up with in the 7-11.
The hardest question the parents will have to ask is what effect did their multiple divorces have on the development of their son. A full picture cannot ignore the fact that in his final months, Martin was being shuttled from one house to another, unwanted and barely tolerated.
Much is at stake. In the nearly two years since Trayvon Martin was shot, more than 10,000 African-Americans have been murdered, most of them young and male and the great majority by young black males. In telling the truth about their son's death, Martin's parents could save many a life. The publishers, however, will expect them to perpetuate the fiction.