#George Zimmerman Verdict; Race and Self Identification
This weekend we have been given the George Zimmerman verdict as not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin which touches on the pulse of what Americans hold dear; family, freedom and individual rights. People everywhere are embroiled on both sides of the fence. I have heard some say that this issue cannot be about race as George Zimmerman is a "White Hispanic" male.
For those unfamiliar with the issues of race, ethnicity and culture, race refers to grouping across culture based upon characteristics which may or may not be based upon biological, genetic or pheno-typical features. Whereas ethnicity refers to grouping across a common cultural tradition. Culture refers to identity gained from common experience in a particular place or circumstance such as your work culture, college culture or regional location; there are many different sub-cultures represented internally within the self at any time which co-exist and impact our functioning.
Race and culture are confusing elements of the human experience but one which is as old as the humans themselves as we attempt to sort through and classify who we are, where our strength in affiliation lies and what we stand for. This classification system is constantly changing and confusing at times. How can George Zimmerman who phenotypically looks like a White man with the privileges attached be considered "Hispanic" which is a sub group and considered a minority? One pre-supposes that if he is a minority that he will not be suspicious of another minority i.e. a Black male such as Trayvon Martin.
That would depend on how George Zimmerman sees himself- does he see himself as Hispanic or White? This is a defining issue for many people who are mixed racially or culturally. These people such as Tiger Woods, George Zimmerman, Bob Marley, Dwayne Johnson, Bruno Mars and countless others go through a period of self-assessment and self-identification. This period of searching for the "true self" adds another layer of the search for the authentic self; some have even said "mixed chicks are crazy".
In George Zimmerman's case he may align himself so closely with mainstream culture that he becomes hyper-vigilant to those he believes are part of the subculture i.e. African Americans (which BTW predates European immigration -see Van Sertima). In mental health this is similar to acculturation disorder which happens when people have problems integrating cultures, there is a culture conflict internally that is being expressed outwardly.
Acculturation disorder and mixed race identity issues are real and have real effects as we can see in the Trayvon Martin case. Look around, you can NOT tell race by looking yet it drives so much of who we are and what we do. I am left with the feeling that this conversation surrounding race is open yet again and will continue to keep happening until we reach a point in our culture where we recognize racial differences as positive and are given all the same benefits regardless of race.