A Statement on Equality and Justice – Tony Penn, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona

United Way believes that every person is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, including equal treatment and access to justice. However, last week the world witnessed violence, almost beyond belief. What we witnessed was the brutal killing of George Floyd, another unarmed black man. 

Is it not enough that George Floyd was not the first victim of the senseless violence we’ve witnessed in recent times? How about Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor or Philando Castile or Freddie Gray or Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or any of these men and women whose lives were taken by violence without mercy or justice? When will enough of this violence be enough? 

As a man of great faith and a member of the clergy, I don’t condone violence of any sort, not violence against people, property or communities. Never will I agree with those opportunists who destroy property and set fires in the dead of night to distract from the lawful protest of people exercising their 1st Amendment rights according to our Constitution. However, I understand the frustration and the fear being expressed by those who are peacefully making their voices heard in the streets of America and even internationally today as the world is asking America, “When is enough, enough?”

Listen, as an African American man who swore an oath of allegiance and proudly wore the uniform in service to this nation I wonder, when is enough, enough?  As a father of two sons who have turned out to be great Dads and have blessed my wife and me with beautiful grandchildren, two of which happen to be grandsons of color, I fear for them constantly because I don’t know if we’ve all had enough? Is America ready to make a real change of course happen to put an end to the violence?

I trust that you’ll agree that what matters now, for the sake of all that is decent and honest, is that we come together. If you agree that enough is enough, then it is time to recognize, that as tragic and horrific the violence we’ve witnessed of late is, just as tragic are the root causes. The policies and practices of institutional racism that continue to indirectly impact people of color, including Hispanic, Native Americans, and others, by limiting access to health care, housing, education, and employment must come to an end. 

These incidents are abhorrent and run counter to everything that United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, its volunteers and professionals value, live and fight for every day. It’s time for all people of all backgrounds to call out discrimination and demand its removal from our society now. We must all do our part, working United, to make this community equitable, respectful and opportunity-filled for all. We, as a society, can and must do better to guarantee that the basic human rights and freedoms of every person in every community are protected. 

Click here to find out more about how we are Uniting for Equality.

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