Former President George W. Bush in a statement on Tuesday condemned the ongoing presence of racism in the US while urging Americans against "looting" and "destruction."
Bush's statement came amid ongoing, nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneappolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes.
"It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country," Bush said.
Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday spoke out against systemic racism and America's "tragic failures" in a statement regarding the death of George Floyd and subsequent, nationwide protests.
"Laura and I are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country. Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures – and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths," Bush said in the statement.
Floyd, a black man, died last week after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for roughly eight minutes. The disturbing incident, caught on video, sparked outrage across the country. There have been protests over Floyd's death, and police brutality more generally, in virtually every major city over the course of the past week.
"It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country," Bush said. "It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future."
"How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving," the former president added. "Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place."
Bush said the "doctrine and habits of racial superiority" still threatens the country.
Many of those who've participated in the George Floyd protests have done so peacefully, but the demonstrations have also turned violent at times and seen both looting and rioting. Meanwhile, as Americans protest police brutality, law enforcement across the nation have been recorded responding to the demonstrations with brutal force, including the use of tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets.
Bush's statement came a day after peaceful protesters were tear-gassed outside of the White House to clear the way for President Donald Trump to take a photo at a nearby church, in a move that has sparked widespread criticism of the Trump administration. Trump on Monday threatened to deploy the US military if states are unable to quell the dissaray on their own.
In his statement, Bush said that many have "good reason" to doubt the "justice of our country," as he simultaneously urged against rioting and violence.
"Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress," Bush said. "But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all."
Former President Barack Obama also recently released a statement on Floyd's death and the related unrest, offering thoughts on how the country can progress moving forward.
"When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government," Obama wrote. "But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels."
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