Statement on current events

While actions are stronger than words, I offer these words to provide hope that if we can change the way we think, and change the choices we make, that there is hope for better days ahead. 

Friends, 

I hope you are ok under these trying times. These past few weeks have revived the conversation about what it means to be Black or People of Color in America, and sadly that often means that your rights, or even your life does not seem to matter. Many of us are feeling powerless and a pain in our hearts because there is not a clear path in front of us in how we empower change and end the systemic racism that is all too real in so many communities in America. 

While actions are stronger than words, I offer these words to provide hope that if we can change the way we think, and change the choices we make, that there is hope for better days ahead. 

When I was in Iraq, I witnessed what an occupied war zone looks like, and seeing the recent images from this past week reminds me that what is happening right now should not be occurring in America.

Had we taken bolder steps in accountability, and truly addressed the root causes of racism, poverty, and neglect, our friends would not have to resort to civil disobedience as the only means to respond. If pleas of the people are ignored, and then attempt to cage or silence them, the only recourse they will find is in lashing out. 

Since long before Amaduo Diallo was shot 42 times in 1999, and before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Arbery were murdered, our nation has rejected a conversation about what is broken, and in turn, we continue to face confrontation and the preventable losses of life. And worse, the rot of our broken system and history is being led by an individual that would rather see more violence through shooting, give praise to the side of hate, and provide no leadership to calm or heal our wounds and scars. The failure of leadership at the top results in the fanning of the flames of hate and fear and further dividing our neighborhoods. 

Our greatest tool against this pain is in our hands - the right and power of voting. Yet, even that is a matter that has been infected by racism, with too many of our brothers and sisters losing their right or denied their right to vote. It is the responsibility of those with privilege and protection from our failings to make the choices that will bring us together, not further divide us.

This November we have a real opportunity to change things, and it starts at the top, but it is in every choice we make on our ballots. From our state leaders to our local school boards, we have the ability to empower those who understand what is wrong, and to take action to correct these flaws. The current occupant of the White House must go, but additionally we must have a Congress that is willing to discuss these matters, and in California, in every office, we must have elected leaders that stand in solidarity with the people. Elected leaders that are willing to be bold, instead of status quo, because doing the right thing is more important than being re-elected.

If we want to undo the pains of red-lining, if we want to ensure true justice and equality for all, if we want to bring real peace and safety to our neighborhoods, if we want to erase the false narrative that one skin tone deserves more respect than another, we must vote. We must also make sure that our family and neighbors vote as well. Not since 1960 has more than 60% of the voting population taken to the ballot to make a choice for President. In 2016 just 55.7% of voters had their voice heard. We must do and be better than this.

I encourage you to utilize your voice and to protest, to speak truth to power, but I ask that you be safe and know acts of peace will always conquer acts of hate. We must not lower ourselves by responding to the destruction of lives to the destruction of our community, we must improve our conditions - for everyone. 

We must also not resort to wanton destruction and looting. Our organized voices and peaceful protests are enough to stand up to hate and to be harbinger of change. There are factions sowing seeds of division by claiming peaceful protesters as looters. America is strong because we have the right to protest, we must not let anyone conflate that with criminal acts of looting. Please join me in calling for peaceful acts of civil disobedience and to stand in solidarity against looting. 

When justice is denied to one, justice is denied to all. This has long been the greatest truth of our nation and of the freedoms by which we seek to embolden for every resident within our borders. Let us pursue a legacy of justice and hope for a better America for our future generations.


Sincerely,

Otto
vote@ottolee.org
OttoLee.org