Former President George W. Bush released a lengthy statement Tuesday calling on the country to listen to black Americans and "examine our tragic failures."
"It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future," he wrote. "This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?"
His statement comes more than a week after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, prompting days of protests across the country marked by looting and violent clashes with police.
Bush called on people to listen to "grieving" African Americans, saying it was critical to seeing the country's reality honestly and improving on it.
"We can only see the reality of America's need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised," he wrote.
Bush did not speak out publicly on police killings during his two terms as president, despite two major cases, according to The New York Times. And he did not refer to policy brutality specifically, instead speaking of racism and saying black Americans "are harassed and threatened in their own country."
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Bush also did not refer to the current president or his urging of a harsh clampdown on protests Tuesday. Still, he argued, it is the entire country's responsibility to achieve "justice for all."
"We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. 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 said.