How Colorblindness is going to Acquit George Zimmerman

Racism_I think George Zimmerman in going to be acquitted. I think this is going to happen because the court is adhering to a racial ideology known as colorblindness. Colorblindness is the belief that it is possible to not notice a particular individual is not white. Let me be clear, this belief has succeeded in making overt racism less prevalent and culturally unacceptable. This is a good thing. The fact that Paula Deen is facing consequences is a good thing. However, while giving our society the facade of equality, colorblindness has further entrenched white supremacy and racial inequality by boiling racism down to the beliefs and actions of individuals as opposed to entrenched systemically. In a colorblind worldview racism manifests with burning hoods, racial slurs and Jim Crow style legislation. While all of that is indeed the fruits of racism, racism is also “often unintentional, implicit, polite, and sometimes quite normal.” Racism is found in “culturally and economically produced systems of advantage and exclusion that generate privilege for one racially defined group at the expense of another.”[i]  It is this racism that colorblindness normalizes via the court system; “[t]he law and legal institutions normalize white advantage by articulating and enforcing cultural norms, which help to maintain racial hierarchy in the Unites States.”[ii] The enforcing, by the court, of the cultural norm of colorblindness is going to result in George Zimmerman literally getting away with murder.

Before opening arguments even got underway the court solidified that race, while obviously THE major issue, would not be dealt with in any meaningful way when it ruled that the term racial profiling would not be allowed. This made invisible what seems to be a major issue in the case: Trayvon’s right to self-defense. In order to make this case the state would have to argue that George Zimmerman saw a young black male and in his racial imagination equated that blackness with being “up to no good.” The state could then argue Zimmerman getting out of his car and following Trayvon was the initial act of aggression and that Trayvon Martin was well within his rights to self-defense. Many of us who believe George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon base it on this understanding.

Now, the prosecution has made its argument. It sucked. They could have made the above mentioned case without using the term “racial profiling” and therefore adhering the court’s ruling. However, they, white men themselves, are clearly uneasy exploring the racial components of this case. As Dr. Stephany “Stiletto” Rose points out they can’t relate to anything other than the normalized (white) culture of mainstream America. This is just another example of colorblindness crippling justice. They themselves want to view this situation as free from race. They want to argue that profiling in and of itself is not racial. Maybe that’s true, but this case sure as hell is racial! If Trayvon Martin was not black George Zimmerman would have kept on with his business and Trayvon would still be alive. And, lest you believe that Zimmerman doesn’t equate blackness with trouble, I present you with the following: On April 22, 2011 Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious black male, 7-9 years old!!! Only a normalized racism, one that preaches the dehumanization of blackness, can lead a grown man to call the police on a 7-9 year old little kid for looking suspicious.  I can’t help but wonder what this case would look like if the state actually put front and center the racism which makes it possible for a 17 year old boy to lose his life while on his way to his father’s house. What would this country look like?


Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the 5 white women and 1 Latina will read the subtext and do the right thing. If they do this will certainly be a win for racial justice. It will mean that colorblindness’ grip on the collective consciousness of America is loosening, but, as this essay points out, I doubt it. That means that once again there is no justice, there is just us. It is us that must do the hard work of changing a narrative and a norm. But it is possible. Look at the major shift in thought around the GLBT community.  Even though that movement relied heavily on its whiteness and therefore its normalness,  it does demonstrate the potential for major cultural shifts to happen in a relatively short period of time.  In reality this is the only way to get justice for Trayvon: confront and deconstruct the “normal” racism of colorblindness.

[i] Brown, Michael K, et al. White Washing Race the myth of a color-blind society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.

[ii] ibid


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