They know they’re partly responsible for not speaking out about it, but the Zimmerman family is still taken aback by how the prickly issues of race and ethnicity continue to haunt them even after the controversial case ended.
They blame national media outlets for creating and propagating the murder trial as white vs. black, pitting George Zimmerman against black teen Trayvon Martin, who was killed during their now infamous fight in Sanford, Fla.
Yet it has barely been mentioned that Zimmerman actually identifies as Hispanic — his mother, Gladys, is a Peruvian immigrant whose heritage and culture have been a strong influence on her children.
“Our mom has been the glue that has held our family together,” Robert Zimmerman Jr., George’s brother, told Fox News Latino. “She taught us that success in this country is based on meaningful integration with preserving meaningful customs and traditions from Latin America.”
Yet as much as they readily and openly identify as Latinos, the family made a conscious and deliberate decision to not discuss it publicly during the trial — even as they pulled their hair out over the widely used white vs. black narrative.
Such a move would have made matters even worse for George, his brother Robert said, further noting that he was not surprised that that national Latino civil rights groups and leaders have remained mum on the case.
They were just as deceived into buying the black vs. white narrative as the public was, Robert Zimmerman said.
His parents spoke publicly for the first time on Monday, telling ABC News that they’re sorry over Martin’s death. And given that the family is currently in hiding, they’re not sure when or even if they’ll be able to return to a normal life.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Latino, Robert Zimmerman Jr. reiterated that point. Though his immediate reaction upon hearing the jury’s verdict was somber, Robert said George began shedding tears while walking out of the courtroom.
“He said he just wanted to go home,” he said. “Just go home to our mom.”
Zimmerman declined to get into details as to what his brother has been doing since then or what kind of emotions he has expressed, saying the family would rather keep such matters private for the time being.
But he addressed at length the family’s strong and steadfast embrace of its Latino roots. The Zimmerman children actually grew up feeling more comfortable hanging out with black neighbors than white ones.
“We found we had more in common with our black friends,” he said. “We saw black families reflecting more of our family values.”
Yet as much as they recognize and uphold their Latino side, the Zimmermans are overall a proud bicultural family.
“If I meet Hispanic people and they ask me, tu eres hispano tambien? I say, si, claro,” he said. “But if I’m around Caucasians and they ask me if I’m an American, I say absolutely.”
It’s because of his family’s open and tolerant approach to race and ethnicity that charges of racism leveled against his brother have stung the most, Robert Zimmerman said.
Particularly hurtful, he said, is the recent push by black leaders such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the Justice Department to investigate his brother for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights.
These leaders and groups are political opportunists, he said, who kept moving the goal post when they didn’t get what they wanted: Crucify George Zimmerman.
“No matter what happens to George, it’ll never be enough for them,” Robert Zimmerman said. “Maybe they’ll be happy if they tied him to a tree and burned him. They will keep finding a way to nail him.”
Perhaps that’s another reason why the family doesn’t want to speak much about how George Zimmerman is holding up since the verdict — he may be letting out a sigh of relief now, but it’ll likely be an ephemeral one.