IN THOSE horrifying accounts of the hell that broke loose in Miami over the weekend there is much that is reminiscent of the upheavals that rocked American cities a dozen years ago. The temptation is to trot out many of the generalizations that issued then. But comprehensive explanations of such sudden and large social explosions cannot come easily. In Miami as elsewhere, local circumstances are critical -- how explosive the spark, how dry the tinder, how far and fast and furious the chain reaction of violence before it finally ends.
Miami certainly had its own home-grown makings for racial mayhem, even without injecting the general anxiety among America's blacks about their lot in time of recession. Many residents -- not to speak of certain people who have anointed "black leaders" -- are saying now that they could sense violence brewing for months. Relations between police and blacks have been troubled: a string of incidents has fed feelings that brutality by white authorities goes unpunished while black officials get the book thrown at them for the slightest miscue. Unemployment among blacks is double what it is among whites, while a surge of Cuban and Haitian immigrants threatens to take many of the few jobs left and to divert government money and attention, both of which are in shortening supply.
Top all this with the acquittals by a somehow all-white jury of four white police officers accused of beating a black insurance executive to death. From there, it takes only a few violent actors and bursts of gunfire to make the tragic leap from property damage to personlized killing and racial warfare.
Reading too much more significance into this orgy of violence in Miami is not helpful. The aftermath will involve a stage of shock, a period of introspection and analysis and, surely, an attempt to heal wounds and rebuild. This will require all the sensitivity and sense of community that a scarred and fragmented city can muster. The riot in Miami has shaken people across the country; how the community responds now will be watched closely.