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George Zimmerman Ethnicity: Is he White, Latino or 'White Hispanic'?

First Posted: Oct 24, 2013 04:25 PM EDT
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George Zimmerman, the man who is best known for his part in the fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin, is having his ethnic identity questioned, as many immediately classified him as "white" before and during his trial, and some are now referring to him as "white Hispanic."

Zimmerman's brother, during an interview with NPR , stated that his brother's picture was often lightened, so he could visibly appear to have white skin, done so that he'd seem like a "mythological racist monster," instead of "a Hispanic non-racist person."

CNN was the first media outlet to use the term "white Hispanic" to describe Zimmerman, hoping to further define Latino ethnicity. The term went under fire, the Latino Rebels rejected it, as well as conservative news site Breitbart, that stated:

"By labeling Zimmerman a "white Hispanic," they serve their obvious political bias, but also they cynically serve their financial interests by keeping the race angle as part of the story's subtext."

Huffington Post stated that media didn't coin the phrase, however, it usually isn't meant to describe people like Zimmerman, who is according to Teresa Puente, has a medium brown complexion. "White Hispanic" is also meant to describe people who have European blood, but are Latin American or celebrate the heritage.  Within the context of social convention, white refers to skin color.

Zimmerman's mother was born in Peru and has black ancestry, which includes her Afro-Peruvian grandfather. His father is white, and of German descent, and has had a long career in the military. Zimmerman's voter registration lists him as Hispanic. But, contingent on who you're speaking to, Zimmerman could be described as white, Hispanic, or "white Hispanic."

But, the term "white Hispanic" could be oddly appropriate, however.  The natural counterpart to the phrase "Afro-Latino;" both are terms that capture an individual who lives on two sides of a coin, someone who could struggle with two competing identities because of mixed background or skin tone. The settle benefit of being "white Hispanic" as opposed to "Afro-Latino," however, is the additional privilege. "White Hispanic" makes one remember the concept of "passing," which permits one to take advantage of opportunities granted to them, because of, generally, skin color. But, sometimes, "passing" isn't simply about skin tone, it's about narrative. Zimmerman could easily wield stories about his father, the German military soldier, when he needed it access to the other side, just as easily as he could utilize being Hispanic to appear less guilty, because by being brown, himself, he could negate claims that he's racist.

The general fact, however, is that Zimmerman is mixed raced, and being that Latino is a multiracial identify, he qualifies.

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