George Zimmerman: Partially black, registered Democrat, and still a mystery

George Zimmerman has been presumed to be anything and everything imaginable. Imagine more. Photo: George Zimmerman (Associated Press)

FLORIDA, May 15, 2012 — The shooting of Trayvon Martin has become not just a matter of law enforcement and criminality. It’s become an explicitly partisan debate, and more than that, a public crusade. Interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority of pro-Martin crusaders are not family members, concerned lawyers, or law enforcement officials.

No, they are the usual band of cunning politicos, based everywhere from Albany to Miami, profiteers of peril posing as community organizers, and worst of all, media figures engaged in what can only be described as activist journalism.

Their combined efforts to obfuscate this tragic incident have resulted in mass confusion and popular outrage despite the ever-shifting “facts” of the case: Martin was an honor student or had been in trouble at school; he was a gentle pacifist or involved in fights; Zimmerman towered over a kid he outweighed by a hundred pounds, then was shorter than a young man who he outweighed only by his pant-size; there was no sign that Zimmerman had been hurt and then there were pictures of blood on the back of his head; he used a racial epithed and then he didn’t, and a network doctored the tape.

We don’t know whether Martin’s assailant was a trigger-happy neighborhood watchman, or whether Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense. We know only that Martin is dead and that Zimmerman shot him.

Whatever the case, it was assumed early on that Zimmerman was white, and perhaps of Ashkenazic Jewish background due to his last name. As time wore on, though, facts came to light which illustrated his Latino background and Roman Catholicism. Beyond any of this, however, new biographical details have revealed themselves, and they entail plot twists worthy of an early John Grisham novel.

First off, Zimmerman is not only a minority, but the same kind that Martin was. Apparently, an old family photo shows that one of the man’s great grandfathers was Afro-Peruvian. Furthermore, for all of that talk about Zimmerman being a far-right racist lunatic, he is a registered Democrat.

Of course, there are still a handful of bigoted Dixiecrats floating around, but a cursory glance at Zimmerman’s personal history should dispel any notion of him being among them.

Shocking as these revelations are, we should expect that others of a similar nature will come down the line. That’s been the pattern so far. The question is this, will they be covered heavily in the media if they do not fit a pre-established narrative? News of Zimmerman’s African ancestry and party affiliation might have been expected to draw attention, but so far they have not. Had far more irrelevant information been uncovered that would better fit the media’s story behind the story, would this not have made the front page?

Almost certainly yes.

The Martin-Zimmerman affair is an almost perfect example of trial by press and public opinion. The judicial process will only confirm people in their existing opinions, or convince them that a miscarriage of justice has occured. The media and political circus has managed to show just how many people — supposedly responsible public officials, reporters, and community activists — are willing to exploit a tragedy to further their own ends. That the death of an unarmed teenager is being exploited for political ends is a tremendously sad statement.

One wonders how much sadder this entire mess will become before it is settled — through the judicial system, and nothing else, of course.

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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