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Travis Irvine Headshot

Riot Predictions Surrounding Zimmerman Verdict Plenty Racist in Their Own Right

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It's been a few days now since the Zimmerman verdict was delivered, and as we can see, all the predictions from the media about race riots destroying cities across America have come true. It's chaos! Oh, wait, what's that? There are no riots? Ah. What about chaos? Oh, none of that either? Well, I'm sorry, I must have been confused by all the media personalities (from both sides) who were very worried/hopeful that riots would break out if Zimmerman was acquitted and they all talked about it like it was a huge deal.

You remember all that stuff, right? You know, like the former Chicago policeman who wrote that America would see "its worst race riot yet" if Zimmerman walked? Or that guest on Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC who said, "there should be" riots if Zimmerman was acquitted? Why, even Pat Buchanan wrote, "the public mind has been so poisoned that an acquittal of George Zimmerman could ignite a reaction similar" to the Rodney King riots. And, kind of more reasonably, one author wrote that if riots did occur, they would "come in the sprawling, entirely black ghettos" of America. So basically what these guys were saying was, "George Zimmerman racially profiled a young black male and that was wrong. And you know what? If Zimmerman isn't found guilty, by golly all those black people are gonna riot!!"

Of course, they weren't alone. Many Florida communities were taking measures to stop any violence that could occur after the verdict, as community liaisons, church leaders and government officials spread the word via mouth and social media for people to be "vocal, but not violent," and even started a Twitter hashtag, "#KeepCalmForTrayvon". Several police forces in other cities such as New York, Oakland and Atlanta claimed they weren't worried about facing violent reactions, but were certainly making preparations.

And now, a few days after the verdict has come and gone, so has the worst. In New York, only seven protestors were arrested during an otherwise peaceful protest in Times Square. Aggressive and destructive protests are still going on in Oakland, but that city's Occupy movement was already infamous for violent clashes with police. And, perhaps the most intense, protestors in Los Angeles closed down the I-10 freeway, resulting in the LAPD firing rubber bullets at them. However, the incident probably didn't even slow down the usual L.A. traffic. Overall, these confrontations were a far cry from the riots that ravaged American cities after the 1968 slaying of Dr. King, or the 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict, which left 53 dead and over 2,000 people injured.

So what happened? Why didn't we get to see all that sweet, sweet riot footage from a helicopter? Where were all my hilarious weather forecasts of "sunny with a chance of bullets"? Did it not happen because we have way more police now? I mean, the law is stronger and more present than ever, not just on our streets, but on our phones and emails and Twitter and Facebook accounts! Am I right?!

Perhaps it's because of another reason. Perhaps it's because as a society we have evolved. Perhaps it's because we have many other outlets now to air our discontent and we use them readily. Perhaps it's because, as NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said, "we've seen a generation of young people respond by using our system; raising their voices, but not using their fists." Perhaps it's because, as David Weigel of Slate noted, "people who made stupid jokes [on Twitter] about wanting to riot did not, in fact, intend to riot." Perhaps it's because, as Scott McConnell wrote, "America's black communities are not, generally speaking, dry tinderboxes of racial resentment." Perhaps it's because in these modern times, we actually have community members who cross out graffiti that promotes rioting. Perhaps it's because some people in the media haven't progressed with the people in the streets, and riots were never a real concern to begin with.

For those in the media to assume that black people would lose their shit because of a controversial, racially charged verdict is yet another old-fashioned aspect of the racism of the past. Americans of many different colors have moved on, and as a country we've progressed beyond the horrible murders that took Emmett Till and Dr. King. Hopefully soon enough, we will also be beyond the violent racial profiling by law enforcement that hurt Rodney King and still occurs everyday. But then again, who knows? As others far more knowledgeable than I have noted, there is still more work to be done for civil rights in America -- not just for the African-American community, but for all Americans who are at an economic disadvantage.

Yet, in our own slow, shitty, bureaucratic way, America is making progress. The question is, will more people in the media follow suit?