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The Banality of George Zimmerman

Superhero kidGeorge Zimmerman’s behavior should be understood in terms of his psychological vulnerabilities rather than being dismissed as racist.  He started life wanting to be a heroic figure like his father but never gained the emotional maturity or self-efficacy to make his fantasies come true. He is impulsive, insecure and seems to attempt to compensate for his low self-esteem in a variety of ways.

Confronting a person like Trayvon Martin, a stronger, younger, better looking man than himself, would surely have put Zimmerman into a defensive posture.  Confronting such a person as an adversary would have been Zimmerman’s worst nightmare regardless of race.  He would be fighting for more than his personal safety; he would be fighting for his self worth.

George Zimmerman neighborhood hero

On the night of the killing Zimmerman was no doubt stereotyping, but based on his early history which is described below, George Zimmerman wasn’t prejudiced against African American people and wasn’t fearful of them per se.  A detailed investigation of Zimmerman by Reuters quotes a black neighbor of Zimmerman’s in the following:

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK?” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”

The Reuters article gives a thorough history of the rash of burglaries in the Twin Lakes condo complex which became serious by the summer of 2011.  Residents had reported dozens of attempted break-ins and would-be burglars casing homes creating an atmosphere of fear in the neighborhood.  In several incidents, witnesses had identified suspects to police as young black men.  The Reuters article says that at least eight burglaries were reported to the Sanford Police Department at Twin Lakes in the 14 months prior to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

And Zimmerman himself had had a bicycle stolen off his front porch by a black teen and the following month responded after the fact with offers to help a neighbor who had experienced a break-in by two black men when she was alone in her condo with her child.  This was all in 2011.

In 2012 Zimmerman and others went to the homeowners association and Zimmerman was asked to lead a neighborhood watch group.  Zimmerman reported a break-in in progress to the police on February 6, 2012 in which two reportedly African American men stole a laptop and some gold jewelry and got away.  The laptop was discovered in the backpack of an 18-year-old who had committed a series of burglaries in 2008 and 2009.  Zimmerman evidently felt that the burglars had gotten away because he had failed to pursue them on the advice of the police when he called it in.

George Zimmerman altar boy

Zimmerman grew up bilingual in a mixed race family. His father Robert Zimmerman was career army ending with working for the Department of Defense.  In his later years he served as a magistrate in Fairfax County Virginia before retiring to Florida.  He was undoubtedly George’s masculine role model.

George’s mother was a Catholic from Peru who was very active in the church’s outreach programs.  George was taught to help people in need and his mother took him with her on home visits to poor families.  George was an enthusiastic altar boy from age 7 to 17.  As a young teen he worked in the rectory part time along with two other part time jobs and was fixated on becoming a marine.  After high school George worked at an insurance company and took night classes to get an insurance license. He was seen as “a real go-getter” by a fellow worker and in 2005 partnered with an African American friend to open an Allstate office.

A year later George’s business failed and he was arrested for shoving an under cover alcohol control agent in a bar and ended up taking anger management classes.  Soon after, his fiancé filed a restraining order for domestic violence.  In 2007 George married his current wife and in 2009 nine they rented a home in the mixed race Retreat at Twin Lakes.  George moved from job to job and attended a two-year college program in criminal justice.  In 2010 he and his wife completed firearms training and received concealed weapon gun permits.

George Zimmerman alleged murderer

At age 28 George Zimmerman is right where he wants to be.  As the defendant in a murder case he is playing out the role of the whatever-it-takes cop who must prove that it was a “clean kill.”  He does not actually have to succeed at anything.  He can be passive and perhaps on some level enjoy the spotlight.

He also gets to feel like a victim.  He is the self-styled hero enduring the ordeal that proves his heroism.  In reality Zimmerman is neither a cop nor a hero nor even a victim.  He is just a  young man who failed to live up to the image of masculinity provided by his father.

He is a casualty of the gender wars more than the race wars.  Or perhaps on a psychological level they amount to the same thing.

The Banality of George Zimmerman

Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at

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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2019). The Banality of George Zimmerman. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 12, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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