Yael T. Abouhalkah

Why black people didn’t burn down KC after Zimmerman verdict

Updated: 2013-07-16T23:27:11Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Congratulations to the black residents of Kansas City for not burning down the city after the atrocious “not guilty” verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

Yes, there’s a lot of sarcasm in that opening paragraph.

Really, do we think so little of Kansas City’s black residents as well as other sympathizers in the Martin case that the automatic assumption was they were going to go all-out violent if the “wrong” decision was reached in the case of George Zimmerman?

A more positive way to put it, of course, is that we have seen a mature, thoughtful response to the verdict from the black community and others appalled at the decision.

Flash back to last week when, across Kansas City and much of the nation, elected officials and law enforcement were calling for calm but appeared to be getting ready for some kind of riots as the verdict neared in the Zimmerman trial.

Mayor Sly James and Police Chief Darryl Forte issued similar pleas for civil behavior, for example.

Yet after Saturday night’s decision by the six-woman jury, Forte tweeted that things were being monitored around possible hot spots in the city but everything looked calm. By Sunday morning, no major incidents had been reported. By Monday night, at least two publicized protests had been held in Kansas City with no incidents of violence.

So why didn’t problems occur in Kansas City?

A few observations:

• James and Forte did the right thing in one way: They appealed to the better nature of Kansas Citians, to respect the rights and properties of others. And, yes, the fact that both James and Forte are black carried some weight. They were saying/implying that Kansas Citians of all colors, including black residents, could respect the law even if they disagreed with a jury’s verdict in a case more than a thousand miles away.

• The people who could have agitated for a violent aftermath in Kansas City to the Zimmerman trial didn’t step forward to do that. Some of that credit goes to the organized civil rights groups that disagreed with the verdict but certainly weren’t going to do anything to foment a violent response that could have gone off the rails and ended up with a situation that pitted police vs. protesters.

• Finally, to get back to the initial point, maybe a lot of people underestimated the fact that — as upset as many black residents might be over the verdict — they weren’t going to do something that endangered their ability to speak freely about what had just happened. Marching with signs and chanting slogans is OK; marching and busting in store windows wasn’t on their priority list.

As a result, the small protests in Kansas City in the Martin case got reasonable publicity that focused on how inane the outcome of the trial was. Perfect.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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