by Ezili Dantò
The United States needs a “bottom” racial caste – African Americans – but allows some groups to “pass” as white over time. “Zimmerman used the confusion to alternatively identify himself as Hispanic and white, depending on who his family wanted to manipulate.” He chose not to publicly identify as Hispanic “in order to emphasize self-defense.”
Zimmerman and The Invention of the White Race
by Ezili Dantò
This article previously appeared in OpenSalon.
“America needs those immigrant ‘white’ numbers up.”
Zimmerman is Peruvian white. As Haitians, we know the hard way, how the majority of Latin American whites treat the Black or the Native indigenous.
We live, on an Island with Dominicans where the Bateys are where Haitians are enslaved. Most folks born in Mexico or Latin American countries are defined as Hispanic and that term is only define as “non-white” in the US.
“Hispanic” outside of the US generally means descendants of European whites from Spain, no matter their skin tone, who identify in aesthetics, ideals, habits and nationality as WHITE. And that whiteness identification makes them supposedly superior to Black Brazilians, Black Peruvians as well as Haitians.
There was a time when the European tribes looked upon the Irish as the “Blacks” of Europe or, before the end of the Cold War, when even some Slavics, Romanians or some Russians weren’t quite “white” enough. But America needs those immigrant “white” numbers up and identifications with white supremacy going in order to keep the majority in the world from rising against its tyranny. Divide to conquer.
“With America needing the numbers, the Irish became white.”
Of course, with America needing the numbers, the Irish became white. Soon though, as America needs numbers more, will all the Latinos, along with Japanese, be categorized as whites? Zimmerman used the confusion to alternatively identify himself as Hispanic and white, depending on who his family wanted to manipulate. Much has been forgotten about Zimmerman’s many inconsistencies, and the attempt to have his wife hide monies raised from the white communities for his legal defense.
The one light in this case, is the Latino/Latina communities, used to being considered almost as lowly as Blacks in the US, refused to let Zimmerman divide them from standing with the Justice for Trayvon defenders.
George Zimmerman had a Choice of Race and Ethnicity
Zimmerman had the benefits, privileges and choices of race, presumed “Americanism” and ethnicity that Trayvon Martin could never have because he was Black and seen as an unassimilated Black youth. These privileges operate to animate anti-Black racism.
On the US census and government forms, Hispanics have a choice to define themselves as white Hispanic or non-white Hispanic. The choice is fictional like the white race – a political choice depending on the individual identification for those who can get away with it in US. For even if an African marks himself as non-Black, his features and skin color will operate to deny him privileges others are accorded who can pass for Italian, Israeli, Argentinian white, Hispanic white, Spanish white or Greek.
“Hispanics have a choice to define themselves as white Hispanic or non-white Hispanic.”
Trayvon Martin, dark-skinned Blacks and Blacks without features culturally defined as European features, do not have such political and survivalist choices in the white supremacist US.
Historically, in the US whenever poor people came together to fight the oligarchs/robber barons/one percenters to push for change because the conditions were so oppressive for all working peoples, no matter skin color, in each case the ruling class turned to white supremacy to beat back the efforts from below. (Watch, for instance – The Invention of the White Race.)
Zimmerman and How White Supremacy Works
Here’s how George Zimmerman’s acquittal worked the white supremacist’s US system. George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, told Bill Maher that George is not white, could “NEVER be white.” He identifies their mother as Afro-Peruvian and his father as a US-born white, “our father is from German descent,” he says. This, to somehow show George Zimmerman cannot be racist.
Later on, the family publicly dropped the identification with Afro-Peruvian and their Hispanic roots.
On Fox News, Robert Zimmerman “passed” the family as white for the benefits that that provides in America’s injustice system. The family dropped the emphasis and identification with being part African-Peruvian. The Zimmerman family specifically said that they : “… chose not to publicly identify with their Hispanic roots since the fatal shooting in order to emphasize self-defense.
In white supremacy America, that strategy works. Especially notable is that Zimmerman’s white US-born father is a judicial officer in the US who probably knows well the legal privileges of being white to that of part “Afro-Peruvian.”
For instance, “racism remains so deeply ingrained in Peru that many don’t consider the practice discriminatory.”
George Zimmerman’s acquittal shows that certain non-black people of color definitely do reap the benefits of anti-Black racism, both in the US, in Peru, and mostly all over the world.
Trayvon Martin had no such choices. He was Black and dead. He had been born to a world and in a society that generation after generation imposes a presumption of criminality on Blacks. Born in a world that conflates Black with being criminal. Whiteness plus the unevenly applied Stand Your Ground Laws which remove the obligation to retreat helped make the Zimmerman defense strategy a slam dunk. Because George Zimmerman had those choices, he could choose a defense strategy that emphasized his whiteness and rarely publicly identified with his Black and Hispanic hyphenates other than to use them to deflect charges of racism. For, “white people who kill black people in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states are 354% more likely to be cleared of murder.”
“He could choose a defense strategy that emphasized his whiteness.”
Blaming the victim, Trayvon Martin, is not justice. But it sums up the historical relationship that Blacks have had with people in the US who hold power. Statistics show George Zimmerman’s use of deadly force on an unarmed child that he provoked, is a criminal act mostly when the victims are white.
Zimmerman provoked the fight and is responsible at law – if racism wasn’t involved – for the consequences, for the death of Trayvon Martin. The double standards are clear. The white perpetrators of crimes, especially in killings of Black people, are still, in 2013, under Obama, more likely to get an acquittal.
“I still don’t understand what Trayvon Martin was supposed to do,” Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker Magazine. “There is an echo, in what people say Martin should and shouldn’t have done, of what people say to women when bad things happen to them in dark places.” (See also from Ezili Danto, For Trayvon: Obama a day late and a dollar short).
Ezili Dantò is an award winning playwright, a performance poet, author and human rights attorney. She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and raised in the USA. She holds a BA from Boston College, a JD from the University of Connecticut School of law. She is a human rights lawyer, cultural and political activist and the founder and president of the Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN). She runs the Haitian Perspectives on-line journal and the Ezili Dantò Newsletter. She can be contacted at http://www.ezilidanto.com/zili/contact-us/.