Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter – Trayvon Martin, 10 Years Later

John McWhorter – Trayvon Martin, 10 Years Later


This week, John and I are talking about the ten-year anniversary of the Trayvon Martin shooting, one of the most politically consequential events of the 2010s. A decade later, are we in a better place than where we started?

John and I begin by discussing the New York Times’s recent package commemorating the event, which features a written piece by Charles Blow and video interviews with Barack Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and Al Sharpton. All of them reinforce the mainstream narrative about Martin’s death—that he had been senselessly attacked by Zimmerman for no reason. Yet much evidence supports Zimmerman’s story: that he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin assaulted him. John discusses how his skepticism toward the mainstream Trayvon Martin narrative contributed to the end of his relationship with The Root. My own skepticism continues to pose challenges for me, as many of my students resist when I ask them to consider the facts of the case rather than the “poetic truth” the case has come to represent. John suggests that we can learn from recalling how the O.J. Simpson trial unfolded. The public story about the trial had more to do with race and the cops than it did with the brutal murder of two innocent people, even if most people now acknowledge that Simpson’s not guilty verdict was mistaken. There are people contesting the mainstream narratives around Martin and Michael Brown, including excellent documentaries by Joel Gilbert and Shelby and Eli Steele. These counternarratives are vital correctives, but where are the consequences for those who continue to push bogus information? And we end with a bit of a palate cleanser, with John taking us through the life and work of Scott Joplin.

Is there a way, at this late date, to turn the narratives about Martin, Michael Brown, and others around? How can we turn back the tide unleashed by these events and their political afterlife? Let me know your thoughts.

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0:00 The NYT commemorates the tenth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death

7:20 What really happened between Martin and George Zimmerman?

14:35 How John’s relationship with The Root frayed

19:33 Learning from the O.J. Simpson case

32:24 Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown on the big and small screen

40:55 Where are the consequences for those who get it wrong?

46:00 Remembering Scott Joplin

Links and Readings

The NYT’s Trayvon Martin anniversary package

Joel Gilbert’s book, The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud That Divided America

Joel Gilbert’s documentary, The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud That Divided America

Eli and Shelby Steele’s documentary, What Killed Michael Brown?

Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story

Jason Riley’s WSJ opinion piece, “Will Amazon Suppress the True Michael Brown Story?”

The 2015 DOJ statement announcing the closure of the investigation of the Trayvon Martin shooting

John’s NYT piece, “Scott Joplin’s Ragtime Is Ambrosia. Here’s Why It Matters.”


Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
Race, inequality, and economics in the US and throughout the world from Glenn Loury, Professor of Economics at Brown University and Paulson Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute