Does George Zimmerman's Ethnicity Matter?

Geroge Zimmerman (Colorlines)
Geroge Zimmerman (Colorlines)

Is George Zimmerman white? Hispanic? Latino? Should we care?  In a piece for Colorlines, Monica Novoa asks an expert to put the significance of the racial identity of Trayvon Martin's killer in context:

As journalists, activists, pundits and everyday people weigh in on racial profiling and the glacial pace at which authorities have moved to arrest George Zimmerman for stalking, shooting and killing an unarmed Trayvon Martin, we have no choice but to persevere when it comes to facing race together. Even when the conversation about race in this country was primarily about black and white harmony and acceptance, there were difficulties. Now that the country is increasingly browner, the conversations require even more clarity.


As the public conversation about Trayvon Martin’s death has unfolded, many people have stumbled over a racial tripwire that George Zimmerman’s supporters set up. His supporters have defined his racial identity as white Hispanic; some have said he could not be racist because he has black and brown relatives and friends. And so, as a country, we’ve arrived at one of those moments in which we have to look at how a system of racial hierarchy that privileges straight, white men affects all of us.

I talked to Alberto Retana, executive vice president at the Community Coalition, a social justice organization in South Los Angeles that involves community residents in direct action campaigns to improve quality of life and transform socioeconomic conditions. They work on education, foster care and prison re-entry—and squarely focus on organizing both African American and Latino people who live in the neighborhood, bringing them together to organize for transformative change. Alberto has a skill for getting to the heart of fraught conversations on race.

Read Monica Nova's entire piece, and her interview with Alberto Retana at Colorlines.