Former US president George W Bush has called upon Americans to examine the nation’s “tragic failures” and collectively push for equal justice, amid violent protests across the country over the custodial killing of an African-American man.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, was handcuffed and pinned to the ground in Minneapolis on May 25 by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.
His death has triggered violent protests across the US, leading to the death of at least five persons, arrest of over 4,000 people and damage to property worth billions of dollars.
George Bush said he and his wife, Laura, were “disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country”.
The Bushes said in a statement on Tuesday that they did not feel like it was their time to speak out, but rather it was time for them to listen.
George Bush and Laura Bush said they believe that peaceful marches are good for the country.
“It remains a shocking failure that many African-Americans, especially young African-American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” the statement read.
“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,” George Bush said.
“It is time for America to examine our tragic failures” and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths. It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future,” he said.
This tragedy, in a long series of similar tragedies, raises a long overdue question of “how do we end systemic racism in our society?” George Bush asked.
“The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America or how it becomes a better place,” he said.
America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split the country, still threatens our Union, he said.
The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals, to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights, the former president said.
“We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity,” he said.
“Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised,” George Bush said.
“That is exactly where we now stand. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress,” he said .
Lasting peace in 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, George Bush said.
“This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort. We serve our neighbours best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbours as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion,” the statement read.
There is a better way. The way of empathy and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice, George Bush said.
“I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way,” he said.
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