The rioting that swept the Overtown section of Miami this week could not have come at a worse time.

The racial violence came when the nation was noting the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, an observance that is supposed to mark this nation's progress in improving race relations.And it came just when visitors and reporters were pouring into town for this weekend's Super Bowl game, an event that was intended to help put Miami's reputation for violence to rest and show off the city at its best.

Because of this timing, the rioting did much more damage than just the people who were injured, the stores that were looted and burned, and the six TV and radio news cars that were destroyed.

Perhaps the biggest victim of the rioting was the image of Miami as a tropical paradise. The damage is likely to be particularly lingering in the Overtown area, since businesses are reluctant to locate in neighborhoods torn by rioting. Miami should have learned that lesson from the worse episodes of violence that gripped the town in 1980 and 1982.

The rioting this week erupted after police shot and killed a black motorcyclist. This incident, like more than a dozen similar episodes in recent years, renews questions about whether Miami police are too prone to use force against black suspects.

As investigators try to answer those questions, their inquiries will not be complete without a broad look at the racism and economic hardship that are generally conceded to be at the root of community tensions in Miami.

Meanwhile, Miami won't be able to completely heal the self-inflicted wounds it suffered this week until more of its residents learn that rioting seldom, if ever, accomplishes anything and that there are better ways to protest.