President Clinton’s Statement on the Death of George Floyd
May 30, 2020
In the days since George Floyd’s death, it is impossible not to feel grief for his family—and anger, revulsion, and frustration that his death is the latest in a long line of tragedy and injustice, and a painful reminder that a person’s race still determines how they will be treated in nearly every aspect of American life.
No one deserves to die the way George Floyd did. And the truth is, if you’re white in America, the chances are you won’t. That truth is what underlies the pain and the anger that so many are feeling and expressing—that the path of an entire life can be measured and devalued by the color of one’s skin. Fifty-seven years ago, Dr. King dreamed of a day when his “four little children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Today, that dream seems even more out of reach, and we’ll never reach it if we keep treating people of color with the unspoken assumption that they’re less human.
We need to see each other as equally deserving of life, liberty, respect, dignity, and the presumption of innocence. We need to ask ourselves and each other hard questions, and listen carefully to the answers.
Here’s where I’d start.
If George Floyd had been white, handcuffed, and lying on the ground, would he be alive today?
Why does this keep happening?
What can we do to ensure that every community has the police department it needs and deserves?
What can I do?
We can’t honestly answer these questions in the divide and conquer, us vs. them, shift the blame and shirk the responsibility world we’re living in. People with power should go first—answer the questions, expand who’s “us” and shrink who’s “them,” accept some blame, and assume more responsibility. But the rest of us have to answer these questions too.
It’s the least we can do for George Floyd’s family, and the families of all other Americans who have been judged by the color of their skin rather than by the content of their character. The future of the country depends on it.