Rest in Power by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin
Best for: Readers who want to learn more about real-life incidents of racism and gun violence.
In a nutshell: Ms. Fulton and Mr. Martin, Trayvon’s parents, tell the story of the murder of their son, from the weeks leading up to it through the verdict.
Line that sticks with me: “And we’re gonna win because we have no other choice. We cannot allow a legal precedent to be established in a city that tells us that it is legal for a man to kill us, tell any story he wants, and walk out with the murder weapon.”
Why I chose it: I believe that Trayvon’s story, like the stories of all victims of racism and gun violence, deserves to be heard.
Review: This is a well-written, compelling account of what happened in Florida in 2012 and 2013. It is biased in support of the narrative that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin (as opposed to killing him in self-defense) because it comes from his parents’ perspectives. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
If you don’t live in the U.S., you might not have heard about this story. Trayvon Martin was a (just barely) 17-year-old black kid who was walking home to his dad’s girlfriend’s place after picking up some flavored tea and Skittles at the nearby 7-11. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain, started stalking him because he was “suspicious” (i.e., black). Zimmerman called 9-1-1 and then proceeded to continue tailing young Martin*, eventually getting out of his SUV and shooting young Martin in the chest at point blank, killing him almost instantly.
It was disgusting to read about then, and it’s heartbreaking to read about now. How young Martin’s character was put on trial but Zimmerman’s barely was. How it took over six weeks to even arrest and charge Zimmerman, even though he admitted to killing young Martin. How Trayvon’s parents had to work through their grief in the spotlight because only through the media were they able to get enough attention focused on what was a very poorly handled investigation.
The alternating chapters work well – each parent tells their perspective, but there isn’t a ton of overlap or repeating of stories. The pain that they were – are – feeling comes through, as does their faith in God (especially from Ms. Fulton), which was critical for seeing them through this.
The description of the trial angered me greatly, as it did seem that so many choices that were made were beneficial to Zimmerman – even and especially choices made by the prosecution. The Judge didn’t allow the term “racial profiling” to be used – only the term “profiling.” And Stand Your Ground, while not explicitly used as a defense, appeared repeatedly.
And this, especially pissed me off to no end. As Ms. Fulton makes clear a few times, even if you believe the narrative that Zimmerman felt threatened by young Martin when he got out of the car, the one who instigated the entire incident was Zimmerman. If Zimmerman had listened to the dispatcher who said “We don’t need you to [follow him],” if he’d listened when he was asked to meet the police at the front entrance to the community, if he hadn’t had a gun on him, if he’d STAYED IN HIS FUCKING CAR, Trayvon Martin would still be alive.
Additionally, I think it’s pretty clear that if Zimmerman were black and young Martin were not, Zimmerman would have been arrested, booked and charged within days if not hours of the killing. He got away with murder, and it’s disgusting.
So, as you can tell, this book might raise all the feelings. Be prepared. But I think it’s a book worth reading.
*Usually I use the terms “Mr.” and “Ms.” when referring to individuals in a review. However, one of the things we see when black children are murdered is that they aren’t allowed to be children. With that in mind I didn’t want to give the impression that Trayvon was anything but a kid; hence the “young Martin” phrase.