'It is time for America to examine our tragic failures': George W. Bush speaks on George Floyd death

Former President George W. Bush weighed in on the death of George Floyd with a lengthy statement issued on Tuesday, saying he and former first lady Laura Bush “are anguished by the brutal suffocation” of Floyd, who died during an encounter with Minneapolis police May 25.

“We have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture," Bush wrote. “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.”

His comments come as protests against police brutality continue to rage across the country ever since Floyd, who was black, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes, until he stopped breathing. 

“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” Bush wrote. “It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future.”

Bush called the treatment of many African Americans in the U.S., and specifically the death of Floyd, a “tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies.” 

Bush’s sentiment echoed that of former President Barack Obama, who said, “It can’t be ‘normal’ if we want our children to grow up in a nation what lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”

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Obama added that while so many wish for a return to “normal” in the face of a pandemic and economic crisis, the treatment of millions of Americans on account of their race is an issue that is “tragically, painfully, maddeningly normal” and unacceptable. 

Bush called on Americans to “listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving,” as a step in the right direction toward ending the systemic racism he said threatens the country.

“The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union,” he said. 

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In contrast to the statements of Bush and Obama, President Donald Trump has received criticism for his response to the protests, ratcheting up pressure on state authorities to quell some of the protests that have turned violent with force, in one instance demanding New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

The president has threatened that if states do not take tough enough action, he will deploy active-duty military across the country as a force to “dominate” and restore law and order. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.