In my view, the acquittal verdict for George Zimmerman on Saturday, 13th July 2013 in Florida, a traditionally Republican state, only served to symbolize the riposte and revanchist response of those white Americans who usually vote Republican and hate the demographic changes that have enabled a man like Barack Obama to become president of the United States.
The “self-defense” argument employed by George Zimmerman’s legal team and the death of Trayvon Martin, a black teen, is essentially emblematic of the tortured history of race relations in the United States. Except, the players have changed somewhat.
Zimmerman is the half-white and Peruvian and a self -appointed nightwatchman who once judging Martin’s presence in the neighborhood as suspicious, staked, and instigated a conflict that ended with Zimmerman firing a bullet into Martin’s chest, killing the 17 year old. It’s been no secret that Republicans have antagonized Latin American citizens with their political rhetoric and their perspectives on border patrol and immigration.
However, with the resolution of criminal trial of George Zimmerman, what is politically rendered is a new alliance that looks like this: If you are Latino, here legally, with a quotient of white ancestry, then you too are afforded the privileges of being considered fully white, a protected member of the social, political and economic system. Therefore, it is now in the interest of law-abiding Latinos, to join the Republicans in voting against people like Barack Obama politically, and at the social level deny their fellow black citizens opportunities because their presence in your neighborhood or in your places of work symbolize a “threat” to your sense of happiness in this great country that has the capacity to include you, too, as the guardians of its system.
In other words, this trial has clarified the incentives to American Latinos to decouple their politics from the Democrats and the left because, provided the appropriate language of inclusion, Republicans will go to bat for them institutionally and they have now made official Latinos economic, social and political entrée.
This trial has made it plain to all that the Republican party has made the most affirmative play it can for the American Latino vote – and it’s disturbing because it carries into this new century exclusionary, historical racial entitlements that have in one form or another accompanied agency and membership within the system (not affirmative action, which is irrelevant in the larger history of the United States because advancement and power means inclusion). It also seemingly demonstrates that Republicans are not racist in those traditional, overt ways of which we are most familiar (there’s no use of the N-word by Zimmerman, only the identification of black children and men as criminal elements, threats, therefore, subject to his pursuit and summary killing if the target does not respond with appropriate self-demeaning deference).
So, George Zimmerman, his defenders and Fox News have deployed a tried-and-true form of racial exclusion through the denial of justice for Trayvon Martin and family. In doing so George Zimmerman has now become a political proxy of the Republican party, a political party that has lost any hope of gaining black voters, and which has shown that it will make a the most craven, blood chilling play for the Latino vote instead. This is something that does not only impact black Americans, but in a global context it seems to weathervane regional alliances that yet remain unclear.
One thing is for sure, though – this was a direct attempt to alienate black Americans with no doubt. The decision in Florida contained a concentrated dosage of venom for civil rights, coming as it did on the heels of the gutting of the Voters’ Rights Act and the recent passage of legislation in Texas restricting women’s rights. Zimmerman’s trial was the inaugural and seminal moment for a new normal, and if you are disturbed, you should be.
For those black men who can, it seems voluntary exile maybe one choice. The state of Florida specifically, and the Republican Party at large has officially disowned us before the entire world and declared us to be targets worthy of game hunting. For others it remains to be seen how our fates are improved in this newly emerging, but ever cynical political environment. However, all I know is that the fear is as real as the bloodlust.
This is what George Zimmerman represents as a political proxy, and I cannot fathom the ultimate cost to him and his family, but for that he shares the same compassion I extend to anyone following in train of Goethe’s Faust and Mephistopheles.
Here’s some of the news coverage I thought worth listening to, but notice no one has mentioned the underlying social and political implications of this trial because most are still reacting to the shock of its chill.
MSNBC’s “The Melissa Perry Harris Show”
Tavis Smiley on ABC News’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”
Another, longer version of this exchange can be viewed here.