The Corner

The Martin Case and Race

Naturally, a few different angles crop up when a half-white, half-Hispanic man shoots a black teenager. Here’s a quick rundown of the most important details.

First of all, the term “Hispanic” is quite confusing, especially in a situation like this. It refers to an ethnicity, not a race — anyone who traces their roots to Latin America (many definitions include Spain as well) qualifies, be they descended from white Spanish conquerors, black African slaves, natives of the region, or some mix thereof. Further complicating the picture are the facts that Zimmerman is half-white, and that we don’t know the background of his Hispanic mother.

I’m not sure that Zimmerman’s race is all that relevant; it’s entirely possible for a Hispanic man to dislike black people. But it does seem to be throwing a wrench in the media’s preferred narrative. It’s not the typical white-against-black incident that the press longs for, which some outlets have tried to paper over by calling Zimmerman a “white Hispanic.” I’m not sure the term is wrong, necessarily, but I imagine that if a plain-vanilla white guy shot Zimmerman, he’d be considered just “Hispanic.”

Second is the question of whether Martin’s race played a role in the incident — both in attracting Zimmerman’s attention in the first place, and in Zimmerman’s decisions to pursue and ultimately fire on Martin. At the very beginning of the police call, Zimmerman says Martin “looks black,” but doesn’t sound entirely sure; it seems that he called the police before knowing the race of his “suspicious” target.

However, later in the call, lurking in the background is audio of what seems to be Zimmerman muttering something. Specifically, he seems to say “f***ing coons” as he’s running. Some people hear it and some don’t on the unaltered recording, but it sounds fairly clear to me when some audio filters are applied to reduce the extra noise. I wonder if a more sophisticated audio analysis could shed more light on this — it’s not uncommon for bizarre things to be heard in the background of recordings (“I buried Paul,” “Suge shot me,” etc.).

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