George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, has been extremely vocal since Trayvon Martin’s death. Many times serving as the family’s spokesman, he has taken to social media and appeared on national television programs to defend his younger sibling and to offer his views on the court battle and verdict that have gripped the nation. TheBlaze recently spoke with Robert Zimmerman Jr. to learn more about his brother and how the Zimmerman family has been impacted by the national debate.
Considering George’s acquittal two weeks ago, we first asked how the former defendant is feeling in the aftermath of the case’s conclusion. Robert, 32, explained that, on a grand scale, his brother has been profoundly changed by what has unfolded over the last year and a half. And most notably, he said George isn’t overtaken by the joy one would experience after being cleared of criminal charges.
“I still see sadness in his eyes [and] I still perceive a great measure of uncertainty when I look at him and his expression,” Robert Zimmerman said. “I don’t get the impression that he feels safe.”
As for this sadness, Robert contends that the shooting on Feb. 26, 2012 that killed 17-year-old Martin also left his brother with long-standing effects. He said George holds a “great deal of remorse” over needing to take someone’s life to save his own — a claim that has repeatedly been used in explaining the motive behind the shooting.
“He was definitely not the same person I had seen a few days before the incident,” he said.
Race as an Issue in the George Zimmerman Saga
The issue of race has been a central theme in media narratives and national conversation surrounding George Zimmerman’s trial. On this front, Robert charged that the media have deliberately used certain language, such as the terms “race” and “white Hispanic,” to infuse themes that, in his view, were never present in the case to begin with.
“It was essential to perpetuate that race was a factor in this case,” he said. “Our family made the decision to not rebut the assertion that George was white with the fact that George was Hispanic.”
Of this latter choice, Robert said that correcting outlets by injecting another race into a scenario that was already divisive and contentious didn’t seem like the proper solution.
“We’re Hispanic, but first and foremost we’re American,” he added.
Another related subject we discussed was President Barack Obama’s recent remarks about the Zimmerman case and race in America, when he memorably said Martin “could’ve been me 35 years ago.”
The president’s fusing of the Zimmerman verdict with race, again, caused furor among critics and Robert had some concerns as well. Previously he avoided taking shots at the Obama administration over the speech and was similarly respectful in his discussion with TheBlaze. Still, he detailed a few of the elements that gave him pause.
“I do have concerns with the messaging coming from our leadership,” he said. “I’m concerned sometimes the messaging is ambiguous. I think the American people need time to digest the verdict.”
Robert said the president spoke from a “legitimate perspective” in sharing his views and experiences as a black American. While he noted that these issues are pertinent to many other Americans, Zimmerman believes the comments also included some problematic elements.
“I am concerned that a hyper-focus on race or a hyper-focus on legal aspects that were not a factor in this case such as ‘stand your ground’ could be misleading to some,” Zimmerman said. “I think what struck a chord with me in particular was hearing the president call on us to do more in terms of helping young people…particularly because that is what George spent his time doing.”
His brother, he said, helped black children whose parents were serving lifetime sentences in prison. So for Robert, Obama’s comments appeared to be a bit ironic.
And while he believes that the Justice Department is entirely within its rights to be investigating the case, he is hopeful that the department will end up with “an accurate portrayal” of his brother.
“Not only is George a non-racist, but he has gone out of his way to help African Americans and others, including white people, taking them out of overturned cars,” he added, referring to his brother’s helping rescue a family after a car wreck that made headlines last week.
The Zimmerman Family Is in Hiding
It’s no secret that the Zimmerman case has caused a sociopolitical furor. And with national uproar come safety concerns — fears that have pushed the Zimmerman family into hiding. While many know that George and his wife are taking acute precautions, Robert, his parents and other family members, too, removed themselves from society following Martin’s death.
TheBlaze asked Robert to explain how the family keeps safe amid ongoing media coverage and safety concerns.
“The immediate word that comes to mind is ‘withdrawal,’ — withdrawal in any sense of the word,” he said. “It is essential to withdraw from the everyday things that bring you into contact with people.”
From avoiding the use of their last name to relying upon close friends and family they have known for a long time, the tactics they are using to keep out of the public eye are certainly foreign to most Americans who roam about freely without fear of retribution or violence.
Relying upon one another, Zimmerman said, is key.
“A lot of life becomes cash-based,” he said. “Many of the things that are essential, such as buying food or getting gas — we’re very cautious about how we go about those things and we never frequent places so that we are not recognized by people who might frequent those places as well.”
Asked how long he expects this ultra-cautious lifestyle to continue, he said he doesn’t expect this sort of existence to simply stop. Rebuilding their lives will come from re-engaging people in a day-by-day process that will take time, he said.
“It’s hard to tell how long,” Zimmerman added of his family’s current limbo.
Robert and his family have obviously been profoundly impacted by his brother’s legal battle. His parents and other family members have exhausted their savings and are facing financial struggles.
What He Wants People to Know About His Brother
Considering the media narrative surrounding George, one can’t help but wonder what Robert would want people to know about his brother, aside from the notion that he isn’t a racist — something George has repeatedly said. We asked him to elaborate on some of the finer points he would want the public to know.
“I think I would want people to know that they don’t really know George,” Robert said. “I think that George was made into a mythological monster that has nothing to do with the reality of his character.”
Contrary to his depiction, Robert called his brother a “very decent, honorable and courageous man,” citing the rescue of a family of four from a car crash as an example.
“That’s a perfect example of who George is, who he was before this incident — and who he was despite the trial and the controversy surrounding the case,” he added. “I would want people to give him a fair chance.”
As the dust settles, tensions will also likely temper. But there are still some legal events that may follow — elements that could, again, create furor. From potential civil lawsuits to the ongoing Justice Department investigation, the Zimmerman saga is certainly far from over.