President Joe Biden said the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd “can be a giant step forward” for the nation in the fight against systemic racism.
But he declared that “it’s not enough”.
Mr Biden spoke from the White House hours after Tuesday’s verdict alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, with the pair saying the country’s work on racial inequality was far from finished with the verdict.
“We can’t stop here,” Mr Biden declared.
Mr Biden and Ms Harris called on Congress to act swiftly to address policing reform, including by approving a bill named for Mr Floyd, who died with his neck under Chauvin’s knee last May.
Beyond that, the president said, the entire country must confront hatred to “change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies”.
“‘I can’t breathe’. Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Mr Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away.”
Ms Harris, the first black woman to serve as vice president, said racism was keeping the country from fulfilling its founding promise of “liberty and justice for all”.
“It is not just a black America problem or a people of colour problem. It is a problem for every American,” she said. “It is holding our nation back from reaching our full potential.”
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice.”
Mr Biden addressed the nation after telephoning Mr Floyd’s family following the verdict, telling them, “We’re all so relieved”.
He added later that he sought to comfort Mr Floyd’s young daughter Gianna, telling her: “Daddy did change the world.”