The Racist Arrest of George Zimmerman

So George Zimmerman has been arrested. And everyone is happy. The racist bastard has been caught and will be judged.

Except, I have to admit, it doesn’t feel like all is right with the world. It did at first. I was elated that he’d finally been charged. And I still think it’s the right answer. But the way it’s playing out in the media gives me pause. Suddenly, the cops did the right thing and arrested a racist pig. We can all go back to normal now and (hopefully) watch justice be served.

I hope that justice gets served. I truly do. I think he should spend some time behind bars just like anyone else who commits a senseless murder. That is unless we learn some shocking new detail that we haven’t heard yet, which I highly doubt.

Even though he’s been arrested though, it doesn’t feel quite right.

He could easily be a Nazi loving racist.

But my bet is that it’s more likely that he’s a garden-variety typical American white person racist.

My point is, he might not be much different than most white (okay, I know he’s half white) people. He might be stupider than many of us. But his racism very possibly doesn’t extend beyond what most of us hide and fight and deal with every day. His biggest mistake was thinking he was smart enough to carry a gun and not shoot anyone who didn’t deserve it.

Because we do live in a racist society. It is ingrained in us until we think about it and tell ourselves differently. It’s not genetic. It is systemic.

And we must face the truth. It is dangerous to be black in our country. Our history reflects it. While we are getting better. We are not fully healed from the racist atrocities that happened only a few generations ago.

And white people, we can not continue to pretend that this ugliness doesn’t exist right beneath the surface.

What is garden-variety white person racism?

It is the thoughts and the assumptions. It’s the purse clutch. It’s the crossing of the street to get away from a group of young black men. It’s walking just slightly faster.

It’s the DWB (driving while black). It is the fact that 40 percent of inmates are black men in the U.S.

It is the fact that mainstream movies and television shows are almost always populated by white folks with a handful of brown skins.

It is the fact that ghettos are always populated by a majority of African Americans.

It is that fact that the bad side of town is always a higher percentage of brown skins.

It’s the fact that poor schools keep getting poorer and stay blacker/browner, while rich schools just keep getting whiter.

But mostly it’s the, them vs. us attitude.

There is no them vs us. We are all in this together.

It doesn’t mean that all white people all racists and hate black people. It means that we need to consider that all of this is our reality. It’s all true. It doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us the survivors of a racist country. But first, we need to admit that it’s all around us. We can’t keep burying our head in the sand.


  1. Amanda says:

    Well said Martha! What a reminder to examine our hearts for garden-variety-racism….

    • Martha says:

      Thanks Amanda! Yes, it’s hard, but we must do it. Even those of us who think it may not be necessary anymore. ;)

  2. Great post, Martha! I’ve been thinking lately about how easy it is for us to label Zimmerman a racist and to vilify him. Yet when his friends and families say “He’s not a racist,” what they probably mean is that he is no more racist than most people. People are not as black and white as we’d like to believe – no pun intended. Just like Trayvon isn’t either a “perfect kid” or a “thug.” It just makes it simpler and cleaner for us to lump people into these clear categories.

    A person can have friends of color and still hold assumptions and experience automatic, visceral reactions that we would label as racism. This is where the fight against racism becomes so slippery – where we are no longer fighting the “obvious” stuff but the attitudes and beliefs that ingrained even into people who don’t “want” to be racist.

    • Martha says:

      Yes, Ellie, I think that it can even happen with a person who has family of color. Although, I think that since I’ve had Annika, I can honestly say the majority of that stuff is truly gone. But I still catch myself occasionally. Then I just shake my head at myself. lol

  3. JB says:

    I am the MOST racist person I know… But I am aware of my prejudices, and let everyone prove me wrong. Since I am aware of my biases and am willing to let them be overturned, is that allowable?

    • Martha says:

      JB, I think most people are racist, or at least, have racist thoughts and feelings. Examining those thoughts and feelings is the important thing. Ignoring them, or not admitting you have them, is what we have to fear. Right?

  4. Q says:

    I stumbled across this via Triberr RT from Maria. This is absolutely wonderful! As a black man, it was easy to say what Zimmerman did was a racist act, but I refuse to do so. I’m a firm believer in evidence and unless I hear otherwise, this was a man too anxious to play hero and things just got out of hand. He profiled (which a lot of us, regardless of race do) and who knows what happened after that? Until I hear all of the evidence, I will not rush to convict him of murder.

    However, I do think he is guilty of at least manslaughter, if nothing else, since his actions led to a kid’s death. But, I agree that he may be no more racist than the average American who “judges a book by its cover.”

    Again, great post!