‘3 1/2 Minutes’ Shows What Happens When Prejudice Leads to the Death of a Suburban Black Teen

The documentary explores the intersection of racial bias and gun violence through the story of the 2012 murder of African American Florida teenager Jordan Davis at the hands of middle-aged white man Michael Dunn.
Jan 20, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Protests over the high-profile deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown have put the issue of police brutality in the spotlight in recent months and birthed heartbreaking phrases like “Hands up, don’t shoot” and "Black lives matter." But not every controversial death of an African American male comes at the hands of a white law enforcement officer.

As we see in 3 1/2 Minutes, a sobering new documentary about the 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Jordan Davis, simply being black is enough to make some white folks fear for their lives and pull the trigger.

The film, which makes its debut this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of 17-year-old Davis, a suburban teen who was listening to loud hip-hop music at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station with his friends on a Friday night. Davis’ life ended shortly after that, when Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white man, pulled into the station near the teens. Dunn told his girlfriend that he hated “that thug music” that Davis and his friends were blasting and approached the teens’ red SUV. An argument ensued—which led to Dunn firing 10 shots into the vehicle, killing Davis. Although the teens were unarmed, Dunn claimed that he shot them in self-defense.

The film covers Dunn’s riveting murder trial and features interviews with Davis’ friends and his parents, Ron and Lucy, as they struggle to understand how their son’s life ended so soon. Through their tear-jerking journey, 3 1/2 Minutes examines the undercurrents of American racial prejudice, including the portrayal of African Americans in modern media and the use of the word “thug,” which Dunn used to describe the music, as a stand-in for the N-word.

The audience sees the impact of Dunn’s extreme reaction to Davis and his friends, and 3 1/2 Minutes will make all of us wonder about the ways hidden prejudices can have devastating consequences.

Full disclosure: 3 1/2 Minutes is produced by Participant Media, TakePart's parent company.