William Blaine Richardson III or George Zimmerman: Who is the White Hispanic?
During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama won the votes of African-Americans and affluent whites by a landslide. Hillary Clinton, however, had the edge working class whites and Hispanic voters early on. Clinton stayed alive on Super Tuesday by winning the Hispanic vote by 2-1, giving her victories in California, New York, and New Jersey. Obama's campaign scored a major victory when New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson endorsed him in late March.
The New York Times reported, "As the nation's only Hispanic governor, Mr. Richardson could become a champion for Mr. Obama among Hispanic voters, who have been an important voting bloc for Mrs. Clinton in the primaries thus far."
Richardson was born William Blaine Richardson III. He attended prep school at Middlesex, known for educating the WASP elite in New England. His paternal grandfather was a WASP, and his paternal grandmother is Mexican. His maternal grandfather is from Northern Spain, and his maternal grandmother is Mexican. If anyone is a "white Hispanic," it is William Blaine Richardson III.
While occasional media profiles of Richardson mention his background, he is always described as Hispanic or Latino. They never question whether he is really Hispanic or explain how "complicated" classifying Latinos is, much less describe him as a "white Hispanic."
It is worth contrasting the media's treatment of Richardson's ethnicity with their treatment Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Peruvian.
The media almost initially called Zimmerman white, and it fit into their narrative of white racism holding down Hispanics. However, after Zimmerman's father sent a letter to the Orlando Sentinel (and major conservative news sites like Breitbart.com and Drudge Report linked to the letter), they stopped referring to Zimmerman as white. The New York Times and Reuters began referring to him as a "white Hispanic." Virtually the rest of the media followed suit. If you put "white Hispanic" and "Zimmerman" into a Google News search, over 1,200 stories pop up. If you put in "white Hispanic" excluding the word "Zimmerman," there are about 50 stories, but a closer look shows that every single one of them is indirectly referring to Zimmerman, or else the two words are next to each other as a coincidence (e.g., "Asian, white, Hispanic, or African American.")
The New York Times used the phrase "white Hispanic" only five times before Zimmerman, and never to describe someone who is half-Hispanic and half-white. The Times' standards editor Phil Corbett defends their use of the term by noting, "There are no absolute, clear-cut rules on this. People often treat white, black and Hispanic as three parallel categories, but it's not always that simple."
This is true. Hispanic is a linguistic category, to describe people who come from Spanish-speaking countries. However, groups like The National Council of La Raza (the Race) have turned it into a ethno-racial group, while lobbying Hispanics to receive racial preferences in education, hiring, and government contracts. In practical terms, this usually means someone who is of mixed Spanish and Southern Amerindian descent. George Zimmerman certainly looks like that. As Ann Coulter blithely put it, "[n]ot being a race-obsessed liberal, I don't particularly care, but it's indisputable that Zimmerman is brown. I saw his face carved on the side of a Mayan temple in the Yucatan."
Corbett acknowledged that the Times rarely uses the term "white Hispanic," but the people at the Times say this is because "[o]ur guidelines say we mention race or ethnicity if and only if it's pertinent to the story. Given that this is being investigated as a possible civil-rights case and has stirred protests in part because of concerns about racial elements, it seems clear that race and ethnicity are pertinent." This may justify mentioning Zimmerman's race, but it does not explain why they decided to use "white Hispanic."
In an attempt to try to downplay the fact that he is Hispanic, or even a "white Hispanic," many media outlets are reporting stories on how "complicated" Zimmerman's ethnicity is. The Associated Press ran a story, "Florida shooter's race a complicated matter." The reporter interviews an old neighbor of the Zimmermans who said she did not remember "seeing the family carrying out any traditional Peruvian cultural activities." Do you imagine William Blaine Richardson III engaging in many Mexican cultural activities while boarding at Middlesex?
The Washington Post reported in an article entitled "In Trayvon Martin shooting, background of George Zimmerman can confound" that "[l]ooking at Zimmerman's photograph made Darren Soto, a Florida state legislator, think he might be Latino. But he just as easily might have been Italian or French, he thought."
If I saw William Blaine Richardson III with no other data, I would never have guessed he is Hispanic. The same can be said of Obama advisor and former La Raza VP Cecelia Munoz, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Charlie Gonzales, and plenty of other Hispanic leaders whom I never hear referred to as "white Hispanics."
Personally, I don't care about whether not George Zimmerman is white or Hispanic. However, so long as the New York Times and other media outlets run puff pieces about Hispanic honor students and sob stories about white racism against Hispanics, then they should not turn Hispanics who they believe are racist criminals into whites.
Tom Tancredo represented Colorado's 6th Congressional District from 1999 to 2009 where he served as chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus. He is currently chairman of Team America PAC and the Rocky Mountain Foundation. firstname.lastname@example.org