Before, during and since the Trayvon Martin trial, the media has been consistent in its description of George Zimmerman as a Hispanic (for me Hispanic is like the outdated term “Negro” so I prefer and will use the term Latino). That Zimmerman be Latino seems to have been very important for the media as well as many people. Clearly biologically, Zimmerman is at least half-Latino his mother is from Peru. So the media reporting that he is Latino could be deemed to be nothing more than good reporting of the facts, but that would be an inadequate explanation.
There is something else going on just given the fact that Zimmerman is also half-white, yet he’s rarely publicly been characterized as white. His almost universal characterization as Latino is even more difficult to comprehend given that most of his support, including the monetary support for his defense, came primarily from the white community (I still believe that he should disclose the names of those who paid for his defense so as to clear the air of any allegations that his defense was brokered by known hate groups or individuals).
I also wonder if there was some belief, if not hope, that by framing Zimmerman as Latino, Trayvon’s homicide could be minimized as a mere variation of black-on-black violence. This would mitigate against allegations of white profiling or racism. Even worse, it could be used to justify white suspicion of young black males: see even Latinos know that those people have to be watched at all times. The Zim-is-Latino perspective could also have a political benefit if it was strategically and purposefully used to drive a wedge between the Black and Latino communities.
Whatever the reasons, framing Zimmerman as Latino has not made him anymore Latino than he was before his killing of Trayvon Martin. Based on appearances and lifestyle, Zimmerman seemed to be on the fast track to assimilation into US main culture for good or for bad. Considering the racist rants and insults following NY-born Marc Anthony’s singing of God Bless America during last week’s All Star game, I doubt that Zimmerman’s effort to mainstream would have been complete even if he had never interfered with Trayvon Martin.
Finally, trying to use Zimmerman’s Latino identity to create division and antipathy between the US Black and Latino communities has failed. The Latino community, like the Black community, continues to be victimized by police racial profiling and police disrespect from El Bronx to East LA. The Latino community understands that to seek justice for Trayvon Martin is to also seek justice for those who have been victimized in our community. We will continue to work together for justice and a just society.