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On Equity and Justice

United Way believes that every person is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect – this includes equal treatment and access to justice. However, the world witnessed violence, almost beyond belief. What we witnessed was the brutal killing of George Floyd, an 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 a violence without mercy, or justice? Were they not enough? 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 on streets across America and the world today. And 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 myself wonder when enough will be enough? I’m a father of two sons who have turned out to be great dads and have blessed my wife and me with beautiful grandchildren. I fear for each of them constantly. Is America ready to put a real change of course in place 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 we must unite for all lives in this country, then enough is enough. It is time to recognize that as tragic and horrific the violence that we’ve witnessed recently has been, the root causes are equally as tragic and horrific. The policies and practices of institutional racism that continue to impact people of color, including Hispanics, 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 – and our 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. Please know your United Way will be working with key partners, and organizations to convene community conversations, and plan the next steps to promote more equity, diversity and inclusion in Southern Arizona.

Tony Penn

Tony Penn
President & CEO, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona