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George W Bush on George Floyd’s ‘brutal suffocation’: ‘Doctrine of racial superiority threatens our Union’

He wrote in his statement that former First Lady Laura Bush and he were “anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country”
George W. Bush (Getty Images)
George W. Bush (Getty Images)

Former U.S. President George W. Bush released a statement in the wake of the racially-charged atmosphere in the country right now. Since the death of George Floyd, an African-American man at the hands of a white, now-fired and arrested policeman Derek Chauvin, protests have sprung up across the U.S. calling out systemic police violence and racism. 

Several protests, however, have turned violent, with arson, looting, and vandalism taking place. President Donald Trump, in fact, ordered military intervention on Monday, June 1, to curb the rioting. He decried the violence, calling it an act of “domestic terror”, and said instigators of the riots -- naming “Antifa” as one of them -- would be punished. 

Bush, who served as the 43rd president of the U.S. from 2001 to 2009, called for the country to unify. He wrote in his statement that former First Lady Laura Bush and he were “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,” he further wrote. “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. This tragedy -- in a long series of similar tragedies -- raises a long-overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?” 

The only solution, he wrote, was to listen to the voices of “so many who are hurting and grieving”. He further said that those who “set out to silence those voices” do not understand the meaning of America, and how it can become a better place.

“The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. 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. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice,” Bush said, calling Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. the true heroes of America. 

“They often revealed,” said Bush, “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.”

He acknowledged systemic racism -- “Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions” -- but also called for peaceful protests. “Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. 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.”

He concluded his statement with, “I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way.”

While Bush’s statement was well received by many, it had its fair share of critics. Anand Giridhardas, the editor-at-large at Time magazine, wrote on Twitter, “George W. Bush’s statement condemning systemic racism doesn’t do anything to redeem him. But it is a remarkable credit to the work of activists and thinkers who have pushed and pushed for an idea, now to the point of no return. Even George W. Bush has to nod to it.”

Many on Twitter also reminded of Bush’s legacy, the “War on Terror” launched in 2001, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a war that has per some estimates killed 250,000 civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “He seems to be acknowledging that #BlackLivesMatter. Who knows, maybe someday, he’ll apologize, repent and write a statement acknowledging that #IraqiLivesMatter,” wrote Professor Karim Emile Bitar of Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth in France.

Several still reminded of Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which disproportionately affected African-American communities in areas that were in the eye of the storm. Back then, rap artist Kanye West had said, “George Bush doesn't care about black people.”

New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali summed it up with, “Trump is so bad, he made George W. Bush look Presidential. This is where we're at.”