According to Reuters, in New York a grand total of 2000 people showed up Saturday to protest in favor of Trayvon Martin in the George Zimmerman trial. That’s .00024257 of the population of our most populous city. More New Yorkers show up for pizza at Ray’s between 6:00 and 6:05 in the evening. (Well, who knows? But you get my point.)
In our second most populous city, my hometown of Los Angeles, the results were even worse, according to the Los Angeles Times. A measly 400 people demonstrated. The totals in Miami, closest big city to the event, were 300.
In other words, the turnout was somewhere between minuscule and puny — maybe, at best, fifteen thousand people nationwide in a country of 314 million. (You do the math on that one…. Okay, I’ll do it. That’s .00005 of the population.)
Reuters and the New York Times blamed the weather for the low turnout, never ceasing to point out the summer heat and that many of the demonstrators brought umbrellas.
They didn’t bother to note that the estimates for recent anti-Morsi demonstrations in (usually rather warm) Egypt were some 16 million people in the streets — in a country with less than thirty percent the population of the U.S. Now that’s a demonstration!
So what are we to make of this astonishingly low attendance after non-stop coverage on cable news and elsewhere, as if this trial were the only serious issue confronting our country?
Could it be that the citizenry, including African-Americans, supposedly so greatly injured, have seen through the media hype (what I earlier called media pornography) and themselves realize this case is simply an accidental, anomalous one-off and not that big of a deal?
I certainly hope so, because what we have been going through is a form of national nervous breakdown, taking us rapidly backwards on race relations, something that has improved consistently in our country over the last fifty years.
What we do not need now is a “national conversation on race.” That’s like taking a scab that’s slowly healing and, just when it’s about to whither away, scratching it as hard as possible until the wound comes back.
We have strong civil rights laws. We have an even stronger national consensus against racism. Racist behavior is a huge social taboo, as it should be.
Now we should just leave it alone— let the scab heal. Morgan Freeman said this best in a famous interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes back in 2006. (Unfortunately, the great actor rescinded this later. But I prefer to believe in this more sophisticated, calmer Morgan.)
Here’s a transcript of the key parts of that exchange:
MIKE WALLACE, CBS`s “60 MINUTES”: Black History Month, you find…
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Ridiculous.
FREEMAN: You`re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I`m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn`t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don`t either. I don`t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until…?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I`m going to stop calling you a white man. And I`m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You`re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I`m saying?
Yes, I hear you, Morgan. I hear you loud and clear and I know you were telling the truth. In fact, what you were saying is so important that it deserves being quoted again and again.
As one who has had the great fortune to travel the world and visit some sixty countries, the USA, in my view, is the least racist of all.
Is there still racism here? Of course. Will there always be? Most likely, humans being what they are.
But the best way to get rid of what remains is to shut up about it.
The sooner the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman affair disappears in the rear view mirror, the better for all of us.