Monday, July 18, 2016

Of snowballs and dead black men. The wider meaning of Alton Sterling.

Already millions of words of punditry have been expended on the past week's unappetizing smorgasbord of dead cops and black men, so I'm not going to pile on with the usual fare. I'll just add a few words that you probably haven't heard amid today's uber-PC media coverage of "America's racial divide." What I want to talk about is Alton Sterling and the fatal snowball effect of living a life of varying degrees of lawlessness.

To begin with, I'm going to guess that Sterling was not a private contractor employed by Sony Music, thus the CDs he was selling outside a convenience store were bootleg and illegal (an enterprise that reminds me of Eric Garner and his "loosies"). Sterling also, as a former felon, was barred from carrying a gun, yet on the night of his death he had recently obtained one "for protection." That in itself is a crime that easily could've put him behind bars for a time. What's more, he apparently brandished his new accouterment to an annoying passerby that night; the brandishing incident, another infraction that might've drawn an especially severe sentence given Sterling's record, led to a 911 call to cops. The two cops who responded had faced prior allegations of "excessive use of force." Whether they were trigger-happy on this night we'll never know.

We do know that when the cops confronted Sterling, a struggle ensued. Here again I'm going to hazard a guess, that the struggle ensued because Sterling's greeting for them was not, "Hey fellas, feel free to just reach behind and cuff me." So Sterling is tackled and there's a flailing melee, in the course of which one of the cops noticesor Sterling reaches for?—the gun. There's no ambiguity about what happens next: One of the cops pulls his gun and shoots the 37-year-old father of five dead in the street. 

I'm not sayingAT ALLthat the man deserved to die, or that his singular black life didn't matter. I'm saying that he set in motion a chain of events, a snowball effect, that had a tragic outcome. That snowball effect, more than America's racial strife, explains why Alton Sterling is dead. 

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