Marla Caceres shares lessons she learned from Trayvon Martin

April 6, 2012

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We probably don't have to introduce the story of Trayvon Martin; rarely does one story start so small and get catipulted to a level where the President of the United States feels he must make a comment.

"If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” President Obama said last week. “And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”

The death of black youth Trayvon Martin in the hands of George Zimmerman hispanic man, has inflamed the nation over the issue of race in the public sphere. But it made hispanic comedian Marla Caceres question the role race plays in her own life. In this story, she recalls not realizing (until recently) that she was in an "interracial marriage with her white husband" and emplores us to not "rush to make Zimmerman any more or less guilty because he's Hispanic." Read an excerpt or listen:

"As soon as it came out that Trayvon Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, is half-Hispanic, the racial undertones of the story shifted. The New York Times came under some criticism for initially describing Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” with some people believing that the term “white” in this case is unecessary and might reflect some sort of hidden agenda. Bernie Goldberg, a Fox News analyst, called this description a “charicature of a liberal media.”

And then, pundits and regular folks making comments on the Internet alike said things like 'Everybody, relax – this was obviously not a racially motivated crime, because Zimmerman is half-Hispanic, and, as a minority, he is incapable of racism.'

This aspect of the Trayvon story speaks to something I've known my whole but I am just getting around to understanding: Race, for Latinos, is a sticky and complicated thing. We're one ethnic group, with a shared language and culture, but there are many different racial identities within that. And the experience of being a white Hispanic in this country, like me, is different than the experience of being a black Hispanic. And, sadly, being part of this diverse minority group, and having friends and family and neighbors of different colors that you share this deep cultural connection with –  that doesn't automatically keep you from being a little bit – or, possibly in the case of Zimmerman – a lot racist."

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