Former President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday expressed his dismay at racial injustice in the country, while also condemning violence as protests consume cities across the nation.
In a statement, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, called for people to stand up to “a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy.” Still, he wrote, “violence, whether spontaneous or consciously incited, is not a solution.”
The statement comes as cities in all parts of the United States — and abroad — have witnessed major demonstrations against police violence and racism in the wake of the death of a black Minnesota man last week at the hands of a white police officer. The man, George Floyd, died after a police officer pinned his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd called out that he couldn't breathe.
Many protests have been largely peaceful, though violent clashes have sprung up as police enforce curfews and clear streets. There have also been several major instances of looting in large cities, and state and municipal governments have reinforced police, at times calling in the National Guard.
Several observers, including President Donald Trump, have used the lootings as justification for employing military force to quell the protests. Some Defense Department officials have express dismay at the prospect of using the U.S. military on American citizens.
Many videos posted online have shown police using violent force against protesters and reporters, even when unprovoked. A notable example was Monday, when law enforcement used smoke canisters, pepper, rubber bullets and flash-bang shells to clear a crowd from Lafayette Square across the street from the White House so that Trump could pose for photos at a nearby church.
Carter’s statement also invoked his own experiences in the deep South, saying: “I know all too well the impact of segregation and injustice to African Americans. As a politician, I felt a responsibility to bring equity to my state and our country.”
Carter said that he has fought as governor of Georgia, president and former president for human rights, saying in his 1971 gubernatorial inauguration, “The time for racial discrimination is over.”
“With great sorrow and disappointment, I repeat those words today, nearly five decades later,” his Wednesday statement read.