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EDITORIAL: Perry needs to look at facts, not talking points

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Scott Perry has always been a good soldier for the Republican party.

He's a sure vote for the Republicans in the U.S. House and always ready to follow the Freedom Caucus into the battle of the moment.

But sometimes the representative from Carroll Township, much like the current resident of the White House, can take a talking point a step too far. Or a mile. 

He did that during a 10th Congressional Forum at the Rotary Club of York on Wednesday when talk turned to police violence against Black people and one key phrase: systemic racism.

More:Perry: Systemic racism isn't real, Black deaths sensationalized

More:Former York County GOP chair disavows Perry following comments about race

"What is systemic? That means there's a system of. If there's a system, someone had to create that system," Perry said, adding that racism is still horrific. "Someone is operating and nurturing the system to keep it going. I don't know who in our country is doing that."

He went on to say that the Civil War was fought "to cleanse our country of that issue." 

So, just to get this straight, Perry believes that the Civil War cured the United States of racism. In his eyes, the only thing standing between Black people and prosperity was the fact that white people considered them property, and once that ended, Black people and white people were immediately on equal footing in the eyes of society and the law.

Has he ever heard of Jim Crow laws? Read about the civil rights movement? Heard Billie Holiday sing "Strange Fruit"? Watched a Spike Lee movie?

Maybe he has, and maybe he just heard something louder: the voices of the Republican Party dictating the talking points for the week.

U.S. Representative Scott Perry (R-Pa. 10) speaks to reporters after participating in a Rotary Club of York candidate forum at the Country Club of York Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. He is seeking reelection for the 10th Congressional seat. His opponent, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, will be featured at a similar Oct. 7 event. Bill Kalina photo

Specifically, maybe he heard the voice of President Donald Trump, who has come firmly down on the side of police during this summer of protests against violence by law enforcement personnel.

"I don't believe that (police violence is a systemic issue)," Trump said Tuesday during his visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the latest area to erupt after police shot a Black man. "I think the police do an incredible job and I think you do have some bad apples."

Perry echoed the "bad apples" note when speaking Wednesday, saying you "can't throw the whole bushel out" because of one bad officer.

"The propensity, the occurrence of these events, is actually going down," Perry said. "It's the sensationalism of these event is what's changed."

Actually, we don't know officially what's happening with police violence against Black people or anyone else because no governmental agency keeps track of statistics as simple as officer-involved deaths or shootings. 

What we do know is that the American Journal of Health reports police are more than four times as likely to use force against Black people and that Black men are almost three times more likely to be killed by police than white men.

We also know that Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population but a third of the population of U.S. prisons. Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar white households have. And Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

After a summer of protests across the country and calls from all corners to reform a system that has categorically oppressed people of color for the entire history of our nation, including protests in his own district, perhaps the congressman should start looking things up for himself.

Perry is asking the people of the 10th District to send him to Congress for a fifth term. He needs to speak in his own words and stop parroting Trump when he asks for their votes.