Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.
It's hard to measure this sort of thing, but I nominate the Trayvon Martin protests as the least effective protests in modern history. They might qualify as some sort of world record. And that is a tragedy on top of a tragedy.
You can Google Trayvon Martin if you're not familiar with the case. I assume it's not getting much coverage overseas.
My understanding of the Trayvon Martin protests is that the participants would like the public to stop believing that young African-American males are crime-prone. The strategy for accomplishing this involves holding largely peaceful protests in which a small number of young African-American males are likely to be filmed by news crews wearing masks, breaking store windows, threatening innocent motorists, and getting arrested. That's exactly what I watched on the news last night as Oakland was starting to heat up.
The trouble-makers are a small percentage of the protesters - maybe 1%. The problem is that the 1% gets the lion's share of news coverage, thus reinforcing the racial bias that the peaceful protesters are trying to combat. In terms of managing the public's impressions, the protests are an epic fail.
On a related topic, I'm fascinated by the way humans reflexively group things. In this case, most observers see this as a racial situation: black versus non-black. And yet no one believes Zimmerman would have made the same boneheaded moves if he had seen an African-American woman in his neighborhood instead of a man. Or an African-American child at age ten. Or even a middle-aged black dude in a sweater-vest. The fact that Trayvon was young and male was at least half of what made him seem suspicious to Zimmerman, one presumes.
As a male who was once young, I can confirm that most of my offenses against humanity happened in my early years. My testosterone was high and my frontal lobes were only partly formed. That's a recipe for trouble, and I caused my fair share. I also grew out of it, right on schedule.
The most effective type of protest I can imagine after the Trayvon Martin verdict would involve demands for greater science literacy. That sort of movement doesn't attract too many vandals and it effectively puts racists in the "ignorant" box instead of the "evil" box. That's a game-changer. In the year 2013, perhaps the African-American community needs fewer leaders who are ministers and more who are scientists. Just a thought.