A message from Chargé d’Affaires Steve Walker, U.S. Embassy Asmara Eritrea

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A message from Chargé d’Affaires Steve Walker

In my discussions with you on human rights, I’ve stressed that the goal is not perfection. No country is perfect. Rather, the goal is to work towards a more just and equitable society. I also described the United States’ journey toward “a more perfect union” as a work in progress.

We see that work in progress on full display in what is happening in the United States following the death of George Floyd, a black American who was killed by a police officer on May 25. While this particular incident is still under investigation, it has triggered nationwide demonstrations and protests because it is but the most recent instance of a deeply troubling pattern of the use of lethal excessive force by police against young men of color.

The peaceful protests going on in the United States are not a sign of weakness or decline or political disarray, as some would have you believe. They are a sign of our strength. When you watch news reports, you are seeing how Americans express outrage and transform their anger into reform. It is contentious, emotional, and noisy: you are seeing how a democracy works.

As Americans, we need to recognize that the killing of George Floyd is a painful and tragic reminder that there are real and systematic racial disparities in our country, especially in law enforcement, that we must address if we are to live up to our vision of ourselves. At the same time, we must also recognize that our country has a free press that has extensively reported on the Floyd killing and subsequent unrest; NGOs like Black Lives Matter that seek a solution; an outraged citizenry that through demonstrations and protests is demanding change; and institutional mechanisms of accountability that hold human rights violators accountable (the police officer who killed George Floyd has been arrested and charged with murder).

Ours is also a system that allows me, a diplomat representing the American government and people to another country, to stand before you and frankly acknowledge and discuss our internal problems. George Floyd and Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin and too many other young black men should be alive today. That they are not says something about the United States. So does that fact I’m talking to you about it.