My post last week on the likely non-Jewishness of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s likely killer, clearly struck a chord. A profile that ran over the weekend confirmed that he isn’t: no matter the surname, and whether or not (as many news reports had it) he is Latino, the Zimmermans are faithful, zealous Catholics. The article also noted that Zimmerman’s ambiguously ethnic appearance as well as that surname lent themselves to precisely such speculation: “His father is white, neighbors say. His mother is Latina. And his family is eager to point out that some of his relatives are black,” the Washington Post reported. “There may be no box to check for George Zimmerman, no tidy way to categorize, define, and sort the 28-year-old man whose pull of a trigger on a darkened Florida street is forcing America to once again confront its fraught relationship with race and identity.”
I think the smartest comment on my post came from “Marc” (and, no, it wasn’t me). “Wow—I think this whole conversation says a lot about us,” he said. “Of course, the knee-jerk reaction to his name by us Jews is understandable. You never want to see ‘one of the tribe’ do something so egregious.” Or as a friend of mine put it to me when I first published the article, “This”—that is, this need to know (and deny) that Zimmerman is one of us—”is how we know we’re still a minority.”
Of course, there are more dangerous ways to be a minority. You could, for example, be a black kid wearing a hoodie.