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George Zimmerman Proves Latinos Can Be Racist, Too

George Zimmerman Proves Latinos Can Be Racist, Too
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When I first learned of the Trayvon Martin case, and saw George Zimmerman’s mug shot, it never crossed my mind that I was looking at a “white” man. I saw a face like my own staring back at me: Latino, of mixed heritage, just light enough to pass as white to someone who hasn’t spend a lifetime surrounded by mixed friends and family. What seemed obvious to me was perplexingly absent from the initial coverage characterizing Zimmerman simply as a bigoted white man. The reality was clearly more complicated.

Then, another, more troubling trend emerged: the backlash (mostly by white right-wing pundits) claiming that, because Zimmerman had some sort of Latino heritage, the attack wasn’t racist. As the story has developed, a clearer picture of Zimmerman has formed: he speaks Spanish and English, and has a white American father and a Peruvian mother. Apparently, having one minority parent absolves the child from any potential charges of prejudice. (At least, if you ask the Zimmerman family.)

Is “Latino” a Race?

The media coverage has made it clear that, as a society, we still aren’t clear on how to describe mixed-race individuals – especially Latinos. I’ve seen Zimmerman described as “white and Hispanic” (presumably a nod to his parents), “Latino,” “white Hispanic,” and some even stranger terminology. Some even contest a description of Zimmerman as anything but white, saying, “Hispanic is not a race.”

This is true, technically speaking. There are white people in Latin America – the descendants of the original European colonists from Spain and Portugal. There are some descendants of black slaves, especially in the Caribbean. There are also many, many people descended from the local indigenous cultures. When the US was settled, my European ancestors drove the natives from their land, leaving the many cultures they encountered devastated and dwindling. In Latin America, my ancestors were not necessarily better people. Colonization was still a brutal process that left many dead and attempted to destroy the local culture, religion, and customs.

But in Latin America, the natives weren’t driven from their homes. They were converted to Christianity, taught Spanish, and integrated into the society of the colonizers. The Spanish men married native women and had mixed children. In many countries, a complex hierarchy of racial categories rose up in response, with the first-generation Spanish emigrants on top, creoles (Spaniards born in America) below that, mestizos (those of mixed heritage) in the middle, and the natives and blacks at the bottom. Generations of intermarriage and racial mixing have made Latino identity complicated. Within Latin America, there is pervasive racism against blacks, natives, and mestizos with less European blood.

But most people in Latin America are anything but “white.” Racial relations south of the border tend to be messy and complicated due to the level of racial mixing. And because of the racial caste system in Mexico and elsewhere, most of the poor and disenfranchised have mostly-native backgrounds. These are the people desperate to immigrate to America for better opportunities. Most Latinos in the US cannot be accurately described as “white,” although most of us do have a healthy amount of European ancestry.

So: are Latinos a race, an ethnicity, or a culture? I’d argue a little of all three. Many Latinos who have been in the country for several generations don’t speak Spanish or have a meaningful connection to Latin American culture. But many of these people have visible and obvious indigenous heritage – short stature, brown skin, straight dark hair, brown eyes.  Categorically declaring these people “white” – as many people and organizations, including the US government, do – does a disservice to them, effectively erasing the racism based on physical appearance that many Latinos face in the US. Even those of mixed heritage, those who may not appear on first glance to be obviously Latino, like George Zimmerman.

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Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

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258 comments

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7:37PM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

DrC you don't seem to understand and it makes me laugh that the media and The Martin family (God bless there son) seem to be attacking g the SYG law. He was acquitted under self defense and not SYG. The instructions by the dispatcher not to follow the suspect was a suggestion however Zimmerman was well with in his right to follow. The other thing that people seem to not understand is legal stalking is a persist an action spanning multiple infractions of harassment. Zimmerman did not stalk anyone and according to his testimony he just wanted to find ou where he went. It is evident from the previous 911 call where he didn't get out o the car he mentions to the dispatcher "I don't want to ask him what he is doing because I don't want any problems" in which that case the suspect gets away before the police arrive. So there is evidence that he was already scared of confrentation. If this guy was so filled with hatred why didn't he kill the first guy who was later caught by the police and had one of the neighbors laptop. Please explain that to me?

7:24PM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

You are spot on about the whole Latino complex. I too have faced racial difficulties being light skinned Latino with a Spanish last name. But you seem to insist that Zimmerman also being light skinned Latino with a Jewish last name had something to prove to other Latinos by being aggressive to Blacks. You are wrong. I envy Zimmerman because Spanish was his first language. If he had to prove his Latino back ground all he had to do was open his mouth and just talk. Me I was stuck with a rare Spanish last name that left other Latinos assuming I was White regardless what I said. When it came to me and Blacks well that got even more complicated because they didn't like me because I was mexican. See where I grew up Blacks and Whites did not have tensions. But Mexicans would always start crap with Blacks or Mayates as they put it and vice versa. I give credit to you for painting a clear picture of the Latin race complex. But don't think for once you understand racism in America. I have been to several states and racism is different depending on where you live. As for Zimmerman he grew up in Manassas and the racism that seems to be going on here is US citizens and illegal immigrants. As a matter of fact PWC is the first place in America to start checking green cards before Arizona implemented the law.

11:36PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

The only racial aspect that might seem to come into play here is that in Mr. Zimmerman's mind that a black person wearing a "hoodie" is grounds for suspicion and stalking.

If it really matters I'm white, and in an interracial relationship of 30+ years, and those in our circles come in just about every variety as to us it's more important what's behind your eyes than the skin you happen to ride in or the many other measures people use to set one apart.

11:21PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Never called them facts....they are indeed opinions.

You are a true blue bleeding heart if there ever was one.

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

11:19PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Having listened to the 911 call made by Mr. Zimmerman where at the time he was reporting what he claimed to be a suspicious character, it was clear from the call that at that point there was no threat to his person and no crime had occurred.

That being the case there was no "stand your ground" basis.

"Are you following him?" the dispatcher asks.
"Yeah," Zimmerman said.
"We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher says.

If anyone would have claim to actions under a "stand your ground" law it would have been Trayvon Martin who was being stalked by Mr. Zimmerman the self anointed community watch character.

Mr. Zimmerman later added embellishments to his story that just don't jive with his 911 call,
so it would seem that while we'll have to wait for the trial , Mr. Zimmerman by his own actions created the situation and is simply not entitled to a pass under the "stand your ground" law.

10:38PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

No, not in a pickle just my personal opinion on them.
Here's another personal thought on blacks in general,
not all of them mind you just about 65% of them:
A gun in one hand & the bible in the other. One might
save them or the other will kill them or other people.
You can & will stick up for them all you want however
I'll respect those who can see beyond their blackness
and respect others with a color as well.

If there is any minority group I whole heartedly
sympathize with it is the Native American indian.
The NA are far worse off than 90% of blacks & yet
they do not cause even a third of the murders or
crimes that blacks do.

There are several topics that set people on fire
where few agree:
Race
Abortion
Politics
Global Warming
Ther's another, can't think of it.

Anyway....You are going to stick up for
these people until one sticks a gun in your back.
That may change you mind a bit. Then again
you may live where you see a black once in a
blue moon & that is why you will defend them until
your dying day just like I won't.

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

10:37PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

No, not in a pickle just my personal opinion on them.
Here's another personal thought on blacks in general,
not all of them mind you just about 65% of them:
A gun in one hand & the bible in the other. One might
save them or the other will kill them or other people.
You can & will stick up for them all you want however
I'll respect those who can see beyond their blackness
and respect others with a color as well.

If there is any minority group I whole heartedly
sympathize with it is the Native American indian.
The NA are far worse off than 90% of blacks & yet
they do not cause even a third of the murders or
crimes that blacks do.

There are several topics that set people on fire
where few agree:
Race
Abortion
Politics
Global Warming
Ther's another, can't think of it.

Anyway....You are going to stick up for
these people until one sticks a gun in your back.
That may change you mind a bit. Then again
you may live where you see a black once in a
blue moon & that is why you will defend them until
your dying day just like I won't.

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

9:54PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Bette's a racist, no secret there.

9:44PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Well, what do you think of this:
Destructive Flash Mob at Walmart in Jacksonville Florida on Video!
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Flash mobs usually provide for some spontaneous light-hearted entertainment, but this was anything but. A flash mob recently overran ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPq0O9wa4pQ

I'll say to my dying day blacks are hyper & over react to just about anything. Yes, Greeks & Italians get a bit wound up by have you ever seen a flash mob of white, Greeks or Italians do what was done in Fla.? And, this is not the first time this has happened either.
And this over reaction ties in very well with this Treyvan kid possibly jumping on GZ & that is why GZ shot the kid. And the kid was way taller, younger & faster than GZ to begin with.

Blacks have GZ targeted for a riot or get him sent up at all cost to satisfy that he or someone pays for Treyvan being shot.

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

9:30PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Ask Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit.. Black vs. Latino gangs are murdering each other and whites every day.

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