On February 26, 2012 a young African American man named Trayvon Martin was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is Caucasian and Peruvian. When I initially heard of the Trayvon Martin shooting, I pictured a white face behind the trigger, especially since the media was positioning the murder to be white on black crime. But then I saw Zimmerman’s photograph, next to Martin’s and I was perplexed. Why did this brown man allegedly call this other black man a “fucking coon” when they’re practically the same color? I was infuriated. Tom Owen, a forensic audio expert, who analyzed the tape, said the word uttered by Zimmerman was “punks.” I have my doubts.
Regardless of whether Zimmerman used a racial slur or not, by later uttering, “These assholes they always get away,” it’s enough for me to believe there was a racial motive behind the shooting. What was he referring to when he said “these assholes?” In my opinion, he was clearly profiling. On the tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call, the dispatcher is heard asking Zimmerman if the boy walking in the infamous hoodie was white, Hispanic or black. “He looks black,” Zimmerman responded. In that moment, I realized, Zimmerman has likely been dealing with his own racial self-identity issues his entire life.
You see, Martin was black but he could have been any Latino nationality because Latin America has a strong African presence. In actuality, Latino is not an actual race. It’s an ethnicity whose people are of all races resulting in Latin Americans not having a single racial identity. Since we don’t fit neatly into one racial box, I’ve seen Latinos who want — and try — to be part of different racial groups. Often picking the culture or race that is most “attractive,” or the most cherished. But what does it mean for people of color to prize whiteness when this group has historically belittled them and viewed us as a conquest? It includes embracing the dominant cultures’ preferences and distastes — even for yourself or your peers.