Many want to see the Florida case as an individual going about his “duties” requiring him to challenge possible criminals, refusing to see that the victim had as much claim to the neighborhood as the killer, irrespective of the race differences that resemble historic laws and practices of the Jim-Crow South.
Herein citizens not only protest proposed “unfair” depictions of Zimmerman as “racist” but equate his critics with what they consider de-legitimated resistance groups showing signs reading “Black Panthers = Racism” referring to what scholars see as the new racism wherein dominant whites increasingly see “minorities” as causing racism by claiming racism. Defenders point to Zimmerman’s African-American friend as indicative of why he is not racist, thereby denying the historic link to white militias attacking Black males as threatening. Similarly, status quo defenders point to the U.S. African-American president as indicative of how this country cannot engage in racist social practices, thereby denying this historic link to the institutions that formed the larger system of racial domination.
Both of these icons – threatening Black male that must be challenged as a danger to law-abiding whites; and Islamic (read indigenous) ethnic groups that must be resisted as a danger to European civilization – arise from root ideologies of the “hostile” or savage Indian as a threat to western civilized settlement, extended as a rationalization for genocide of Native Nations and enslavement of Africans, both further connected to militias that regulated borderlands and individuals that identified the dangerous “other” within the colony and subsequently the state.
Within the United States the case is especially pernicious, since the resurrection of these racist icons, rationalizations and practices are further rooted in the Constitution of the United States of America, (See Joe Feagin’s White Party, White Government), with over two hundred years of racial struggles and wars to eliminate the legalized racial orderings but not the de-facto racialized practices. This resurrection is further troubling as clearly racist, ethno-dominating policies are being re-founded in states such as Arizona, Florida and Georgia with popular political initiatives defending the dominant group initiatives, furthering the ideological defense of individuals such as Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin and racist institutions such as Breivik’s killings being labeled as that of a “psychopath” and not those of the supremacist, protectionist ideologies that Breivik invoked in his own defense.
Deep icons of the “dangerous other” existing below the surface of a troubled society only take certain political mixes to become resurrected, with the savage now being an Islamic or Indigenous recalcitrant, “hostiles” becoming “terrorists” or enemy combatants, and historically suppressed groups such as Blacks and Latinos being swept up in racist tides of anti-crime nativism. Seriously anti-racist activists need to attend to the use of deeply embedded racial icons in our society to rationalize race attacks and killings, else we will also resurrect supremacist ideologies that produce racist policies and turn back the meager gains we have made over the past two centuries for a more equitable, less race-based society.