B29: 'Minority' and the trouble with labels

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter
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SANFORD, Fla. - After six jurors were selected in the George Zimmerman trial, reporters were scrambling to try and describe juror B29. Of the six women, she is the only one who is not white.

Media outlets across the country ran with different labels. Some called her Hispanic; others declared she was black. In court Thursday state prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda described her as "black or Hispanic". Benjamin Crump, family attorney for the Martin family told me, "we understand she's Hispanic."

READ: Meet the jurors

Here's the deal -- we will never know until we actually get an opportunity to speak with her. What matters most is what race or ethnicity she identifies with. Rumors surfaced around the courthouse that B29 wrote "partially Hispanic" on her jury questionnaire, although no one wanted to go on record to confirm.

SPECIAL SECTION: George Zimmerman trial

To protect their identities, the names of jurors have been kept secret. All we have to rely on in the courtroom is observation. I can tell you in my original notes I scribbled that she *could* be light-skinned black or possibly Hispanic.

Another example: potential juror G63. In my notes, I wrote "mixed race". He appeared multiracial from my vantage point in the courtroom. Moments later he would say, "I don't even identify with a race." G63 said his background is, "German, Filipino, Chinese and Spanish."

Then, there was potential juror P67, a proud, recent U.S. citizen who confirmed his country of origin was Mexico. We learned during jury selection that he took issue with being described by reporters as a "Mexican native". He said he learned of the label from his wife and daughter who saw an article about him online.

Perhaps their perspectives resonate with me given my own background. I am a Miami-native from the Kendall area. My dad was born in Cuba, as were his parents and my mom's parents. My grandfather, Andrew Vazquez ,is so thankful for the opportunity to live in America, so grateful for the freedoms we enjoy that if asked he will say he is American. Not Cuban, not Cuban-American, not Hispanic, not Latino -- he's American, period.

When I left Miami to attend Boston College is when I first really struggled with questions of race and ethnicity. Let's be candid, I sure as heck look Caucasian, but grew up in a world of flan not pecan pie. I wondered where all the pastelitos and Materva were in the Boston-area gas stations, started jonesing for cafe con leche and was devastated to learn local radio stations did not play my beloved salsa music. What I perhaps missed the most -- the delightful sound of people speaking Spanish.

Was I "white" or "Hispanic?" It's a question I explored at length, logging entries into a worn journal in my dorm room. It's what my friend Josh Cramer-Montes, another "Cuban-American" calls "living on the hyphen."

This is why casting a description can be so tricky.

So what race or ethnicity is B29? I'll let you know when I get a chance to ask her.

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