Whether or not George Zimmerman is acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, the speculation that a not-guilty verdict will trigger riots in pockets of "urban America" is ridiculous. It is also racist because it assumes black people are too socially immature to deal with disappointment without resorting to violence.
There will be some angry demonstrations here and there for sure, but it is more likely that members of the press will outnumber the demonstrators. There will be a flurry of angry reaction and discussion on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, but that's about it. The talk will very quickly return to whatever else is trending that day.
No one in his right mind ever assumed justice was possible in a case like this. People were amazed that many months after the incident, charges were filed against George Zimmerman at all.
To think young people -- at least those of "rioting age" -- have a lot of hope invested in the criminal justice system is to engage in magical thinking. Believe me, they don't. Most either weren't born yet or are too young to remember the acquittal of the white cops who beat Rodney King, a court verdict that triggered several days of rioting in Los Angeles 21 years ago.
Young people have to go to YouTube to see what that fuss was about. The L.A. riots are not a model for dissent for today's black youth. In fact, the last time there was a racially charged riot in America, Arsenio Hall was still on the air.
Most kids' images of riots today are of sofas burning at Penn State after Joe Paterno's firing or of a melee at the local mall on Black Friday. Most riots this decade are generated after sports events, frequently at colleges -- either as out-of-control celebrations or as venting by disgruntled fans.
A spate of "flash mob" incidents a few years ago involved dozens of black kids flooding downtown areas of cities such as Philadelphia and Indianapolis. The Drudge Report focused on these events as evidence of a black youth insurgency occurring under America's nose.
Those "uprisings" -- organized on social media as opportunistic snatch-and-grabs -- never amounted to more than a few purse snatchings, some scuffles, some broken windows and zero loss of life. There was no widespread property damage.
Flash mobs are hardly the stuff of Charles Deslondes' 500-man slave revolt in New Orleans in 1811 or Nat Turner's plantation massacres years later. They aren't political or based on legitimate grievances -- they're criminal.
Still, the paranoid fantasy of mass black rioting in reaction to the Zimmerman jury verdict continues to be fueled by half-remembered incidents of petty criminality and riots from decades ago.
Frightened white people don't make nuanced distinctions when they see blacks acting up on their television screens. Things get easily conflated, especially when Fox News is telling America to watch out for scary black people in general.
Even baseless rumors of potential social disorder can stir elemental fears that harken back to the darkest days of our nation's history. The horrific irony, of course, is that for centuries black people were the victims of riots in this country.
Because of the tricky prism of race in America, riots have become an exclusively "black thang" in the popular imagination. Even a casual Google search shows how silly a notion that is, but that doesn't mean it isn't a widespread assumption.
This week in Florida, the Sanford police and the Broward County sheriff's department teamed up to record a public service announcement featuring local youths urging calm in the event of frustration with the Zimmerman verdict.
It is a well-meaning, but corny, video featuring black cops flanking two black kids trying desperately to rap something meaningful and failing badly. It is a laughable, insulting and aesthetically ludicrous enterprise. If anything, it will perpetuate the widespread notion that law enforcement in Broward County is clueless.
Whether he's found guilty or not, the fight against the so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws that made George Zimmerman's confrontation with Trayvon Martin possible will continue.
The defendant himself is a non-entity as far as most blacks are concerned. He's a convenient symbol for both sides of an ugly dispute over the nature of justice in America. He's not worth rioting over. His conscience will eventually eat at him far more effectively than any verdict, if he's lucky.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1631 or on Twitter @TonyNormanPG.