Gil Mertz | Is America as Racist as We Are Told It Is?

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

First, I want to join the unanimous condemnation that George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis was inexcusable and that the four officers apprehended should stand trial for murder and be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law. 

The Floyd family deserves our sympathies and every compensation for their loss. The only question is why those steps took so long. 

I can also separate the peaceful protests from the ugly rioting, which hijacked the message of racial equality by people and by groups with totally different agendas.

The last time we saw rioting in the streets was when Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, about five years ago. 

Witnesses claimed that Mr. Brown held up his hands and said, “Don’t shoot” before he was killed. 

“Hand ups – Don’t shoot” became the rallying cry as those protesters took to the streets and set the town on fire.

There was just one problem. It wasn’t true. 

The riots and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement were based on an event that never happened. This was the conclusion of Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder. According to Holder, no one saw Brown’s hands up or heard him say “Don’t shoot” and after his full investigation he confirmed the officer acted in self-defense.

I do not question the truth of Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of the four Minneapolis cops or that there are other police officers who exploit their authority, resulting in abuses and unwarranted killings. 

But like the stories that came out of Ferguson, I do question the claims of systemic racism among the 700,000 police officers in our country and that America must forever carry the stain of slavery for which white people in 2020 must repent.

Since the tragedy in Ferguson, the police have made an estimated 50 million arrests in America. Let that number sink in for a moment. And of these 50 million arrests, how many stories have we heard like what happened to Mr. Floyd? 

One is too many, but how would this astronomically low percentage represent systemic racism in law enforcement?

Meanwhile, we are more than five generations removed from the end of slavery in America. No other nation ever fought a Civil War over slavery. The United States has spent more than $20 trillion over the last half century on programs to help untold millions of black families. And while we can never fully eradicate racism anywhere in the world, no other country on the planet has tried as hard as America.

As we are hearing renewed cries of racism for the plight of the black community, which is real, our leaders and media continue to ignore the elephant in the room. A far greater challenge for black people than the history of slavery or police brutality is the astounding number of single-parent black families. No one wants to talk about the women left alone to fend for themselves and their children, resulting in ongoing cycles of poverty, dependency and lack of opportunity.

Rather than take responsibility and focus on this crisis, it’s easier to just blame the police and white people for the struggles of black families. Many believe we must confess our white-ism to atone for our sins of success and continue to enable dependency in exchange for political power.  

Of course black lives matter, including those black police officers murdered in these riots who get so little attention. 

But I can’t help but question the integrity of those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement who also defend abortion mills like Planned Parenthood who are notorious for targeting black communities to end black lives. 

Are these innocent black lives not worthy of protest or is it only black lives of our choosing that matter?

If you want to look to someone with integrity on this issue, consider Nelson Mandela. 

If ever there was systemic racism, it was under apartheid in South Africa. Because he stood up to this injustice, he would spend 27 years in prison under brutal conditions. In 1994 he became the president of South Africa. He now had the right and the power to exact revenge on his white captors.

Instead, Mandela said, “Men of peace must not think about retribution or recriminations. Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.” 

For the sake of peace in America, it’s time we all extend forgiveness for our past sins, punish the guilty, follow through on the changes we need, and finally move on.

Gil Mertz is a Thousand Oaks resident and former Santa Clarita Valley resident who worked for Help the Children in Valencia for 20 years.

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