“Why am I here?” I murmured to myself as regret and anxiety immediately enter my body. It was a sunny afternoon when I arrived at the Mountain View Civic Center Plaza for the Stand Up for Equality and Diversity rally.
Being a high school student from a relatively conservative family, I evaded questions and got out of my family’s car promptly to be greeted by a crowd of people in pink knit hats, “Love Trumps Hate” signs and majorly white faces. It was a typical start to many of the demonstrations in Silicon Valley, and much of the event was just as, if not more, predictable.
I walked into the plaza alone – uncomfortable and already exhausted from the sweltering crowd. The air reeked with neo-liberalism as posters from “Diversity Is Strength” to “Love Not Hate Makes America Great” and various photo-ops with protest signs littered the crowd, while several attendees came up to speak during the open-mic session.
However, as I stood surrounded by well-meaning white people with “Not My President” pins and vibrant patriotism, I found myself wanting to break down and leave within half an hour.
Prior to the rally, I naively hoped to reach people and be able to radicalize people to more direct action. But actually being present in that space disintegrated my resolve. I watched attendees come to the mic as they proudly held up the U.S. flag proclaiming, “This is our flag!” while others smiled to themselves about whatever witty sign they made. Each superficial “Diversity Is Strength,” every “Love Wins,” every “Love Trumps Hate” left me disappointed, but mostly unsurprised and frustrated.
The main issue I saw that underlies neoliberalism in general, particularly in Silicon Valley, is the entire framing of the conversation. By characterizing the current political climate as a matter of love versus hate, neoliberalism undermines the urgency and severity of the issues and absolves the larger power structures responsible for them. Charlottesville, a Trump presidency and the overall rise of white supremacy are not just about love and hate – they’re about the rampant anti-blackness in the United States, the impacts and results of colonialism and the corruption running through the government largely due to capitalism, corporations and congressional fundraising.
While attendees raised the U.S. flag with rainbow stripes, I saw the brutal repression of Native Americans exercising fluidity in gender and sexuality. While “Diversity Makes America Great” signs flashed through the crowd, I saw token brown people arranged to remain palatable to a white audience. While tech workers spoke on the betterment of the Bay Area, I saw elders being evicted from homes in Sunny Hills and the median price of a house in Oakland rise to $626,000.
I was surrounded by hundreds of people voicing support, but I came to realize that vague chants about love and progress were ultimately empty promises that lacked the necessary vision and support to execute such progress.
Neoliberals will embrace the very corporations that destroy natural resources and exploit child labor so long as they walk at the Pride Parade with rainbow paraphernalia. Silicon Valley’s neoliberal will point to newly paved roads and “We Are America” posters while shuffling past East Palo Alto because the neighborhoods are “scary” and “look sketchy,” yet praise the diversity statistics at their tech startups. White couples will stroll along University Avenue in Palo Altos proclaiming that Donald Trump is “not my president” but won’t confront racist relatives because “it’s too hard.”
The Silicon Valley I see waves the American flag, a symbol of imperialism, while continuing to tout the importance of equality.
Ultimately, the hypocrisy that is entrenched in neoliberalism merely presents another stumbling block for resisters to confront in the pursuit of justice. If the minimal efforts in Silicon Valley continue this route – accumulating wealth while walking along the sidelines of injustice – what “movement,” what “resistance” are these efforts truly for?
E.S. is a high school student from Los Altos Hills who requested that her name not be used due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.