June 3, 2020
Written by Amy Lindner, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
It has been over one week since the murder of George Floyd. A death that followed the police killing of Breonna Taylor and others whose names we know and don’t. I’ve finally had a chance to sit down, collect my thoughts, and attempt to wrap my head around this horrific event.
It’s not easy. It hurts. Not because it’s something we’ve never seen or experienced before in our lifetime. It hurts because racism and the violence racists use are still pervasive in our community. We remember all the Black men and women who have lost their lives to violence in our community and acknowledge those who live with this rage, fear, and heartbreak more directly than I do.
The team at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County joins all who are grieving, who are angry, who are in pain. While we know we have much more we need to do, we are proud to stand alongside so many in fighting for equity in our community.
Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our everyday work, and we are working to change the systemic issues that confront Black men and women, and that continue to impose barriers, and dictate outcomes that are not just.
We are proud of our work with Boys & Men of Color. This initiative supports a variety of service providers to incorporate equitable strategies specific to males of color in the community. The ultimate goal of this work is system changes, rather than quick-fixes or band-aid solutions.
We are proud of our work with the Diversity Leadership Society, especially around Reducing Barriers to Employment & Advancement for local, diverse individuals. All adults of working age in our community should have the opportunity to obtain permanent employment with a livable wage at a workplace where they are treated with dignity.
We are proud of the Men’s and Women’s Job Seminars. In partnership with ManpowerGroup, United Way offers cutting-edge job seminars for local men and women who are looking to boost their skills, find a job, or explore new career options.
We’re proud of these and so much more.
But let’s be real. We need to do more.
Brian Gallagher, the CEO of United Way Worldwide, recently posted this in his online blog:
“United Way fights for greater opportunity for all and has been heavily involved in equity work, but if our society cannot ensure equal access to justice for all, then it is time for us to increase our engagement and elevate our role.”
Gallagher continues, “…until we institute meaningful police and criminal justice reform, I fear there will be more stories – and killings – like those of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others.
Each of them deserved justice, dignity and a different fate. Which is why as we work towards equity in schools, jobs and health care, we need to ensure that the basic rights and freedoms of everyone are protected.”
A recent study in the LA Times finds that about 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys can expect to die as a result of police violence over the course of their lives – a risk that's about 2.5 times higher than their white peers. The call for action has never been more important.
We know it’s not easy. And we know it hurts. And that’s exactly why we need to speak up and act.
Gallagher ends his post with a simple message for us all: “No matter your race, get involved. Engage in critical dialogues, fight for reform, and hold people accountable, starting with the mayor, district attorney, police chief and business and civic leaders in Minneapolis and communities everywhere. Petition, march, advocate – don’t let up.”
At United Way, we say change does not happen alone. We know it will take all of us to work together to change the ending to these very sad stories. But we will keep working. And we will keep looking for new ways to solve old problems. And we will ask you to join us.
That’s what Living United is all about.