Somewhere in America, a Tio Tomas named Too Curious George Zimmerman is flailing his gun around like a wild cowboy while the family of the teenage boy he murdered mourns and become driven to prevent this from happening again to other Black and Brown. On one hand, it’s quite inspiring to see how people of all races have coalesced around the Stand Your Ground laws despite the “insane” support it still receives from the predictable mostly-white and Republican gun-loving Americans around the country. I’ve sat back trying to digest the reactions, some from people I am really fond of, that range from deplorable to downright ignorant. Some people have invoked Black-on-Black/Brown-on-Brown crime and wrote this off as just another case: that’s total bullshit. One has nothing to do with the other…but that’s another conversation. For me, the fat-ass light brown elephant in the room that hasn’t been discussed isn’t George Zimmerman—we’ve discussed and will continue to talk about that elephant for months to come. What we haven’t discussed, not in the media although certainly amongst some of my friends and family in private, is race…through anOther lens.
The truth, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, is that Zimmerman is part Latino. And still, every conversation I’ve watched in the media has been through the prism of Black-and-white America. Race, especially in this context, is too complicated for talking heads to discuss because of the nuance and subtext that isn’t being explored. If race is indeed not a fact but rather a social experience then I think—and thank God, Buddha and Krishna I don’t know him personally—that Zimmerman identifies as a white man, and therefore, privileged, and ultimately above the law. That storyline is a complex one that doesn’t fit into soundbites. It’s uncomfortable. Race in the Latino-American community is fluid and crazy complicated. It doesn’t matter whether his mother or other family members are assimilationists or if they want to be as chalky white as Sammy Sosa. It’s how one sees themselves. It’s about the time they vest to learn about and embrace the New World history that runs through their veins: it’s white, African, Indigenous and Other.
If Zimmerman took the time to learn that, to understand that Trayvon Martin and he had a shared historical experience, perhaps he would not have acted out in fear and ultimately kill that young man. Self-hatred is what surfaces in the mirror when someone doesn’t do the work to explore and define one’s own identity. It happens when we ignore one part of ourselves and acknowledge the other. It’s that thing eats away at our insides like a disease. It’s rage. And it’s infectious. We need to start talking about it before the virus snowballs further out of control.