The Zimmerman outcome was shocking, but not surprising. I think we had all braced ourselves for this outcome, knowing that powerful advocates for these “Stand Your Ground (But Only if You're White)” laws were going to be pulling a lot of strings in the background. Zimmerman’s lawyer, in coordination with the media, also had ample opportunity to smear the names and characters of key witnesses based on speculation, misinformation, and fear. All of the theatrics became a distraction to the root of the problem: is a black boy’s life really as equal as a white boy’s in the eyes of the law?
Siding with Zimmerman simply because of his Peruvian background is like a Latino voter trusting Ted Cruz with their vote in the hopes that he stands for Latino politics because of his surname.
- Jesús Iñiguez
The conversation stopped being about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman long ago; it became about the black experience in white America, where racism is now a silent conniving ghost that haunts the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government. And when George was found not guilty for his killing of a young black boy, we knew that the spirit of that dark and savage racist past was still stirring and working, hiding behind legal jargon, technicalities, and incredulous narratives. It twisted words and language to continue to make it legally permissible to shoot and kill a young black boy, regardless of who pulls the trigger.
We’ll never really know what transpired that night between Trayvon and Zimmerman. What we do know is that one of the two is deceased, his character assassinated by Zimmerman’s lawyer, and some in White America think that Martin had it coming.
The interesting thing about this entire Trayvon vs. Zimmerman is the way that Latinos swayed on the circumstances of this trial. The vast majority of our Presente.org members felt that the ruling was shocking and unjust. But some of our members were upset that, as a Latino organization, we were not publicly “siding” with Zimmerman (who is of Peruvian decent), hence failing the Latino community. Others felt that the killing of a black boy was not something that we should discuss on our social media platforms, demanding instead that we don’t steer from solely focusing on “Latino issues and interests.”
Siding with Zimmerman simply because of his Peruvian background is like a Latino voter trusting Ted Cruz with their vote in the hopes that he stands for Latino politics because of his surname. (Are you kidding me?!) In order for us Latinos to help ourselves supersede in these times, we must be willing to hold each other accountable.
Zimmerman’s Peruvian background didn’t change the fact that he left his vehicle in pursuit of Martin after the 911 operator told him to stay put. It didn’t change the fact that Zimmerman noticed Trayvon simply because he was a black kid wearing a hoodie at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Therein lies the issue that draws tangents between the black and brown experience in the United States (which are not always mutually exclusive, as there are millions of Afro-Latinos in the United States). Just as black people are persecuted and accosted by police for being black, brown people are being corralled and assaulted by police and ICE for being brown. Black men are killed by police for reaching into their pockets and pulling out their own wallets just as brown men are tasered to death while hogtied at the U.S./Mexico border.
And in the same manner that justice turns a blind eye upon black youth like Trayvon Martin, justice ignores brown voices like that of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 15-year-old who was shot to death by border patrol: with impunity, without investigation, without thought, without justice.
We are all Trayvon. We are all Jose Antonio. And living with a system that serves to protect the interest of one gun-owner over the life of one young black boy is a system that will continue to perpetuate the status quo of white supremacy upon all people of color.
Jesús Iñiguez is an undocumented artist and activist who works at Presente.org, the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the U.S.